This is very good question that we get quite often. In fact, it is a question that we ask the insurance adjusters quite frequently. Moreover, it is a much broader question including all prior injuries or medical conditions and typically must be addressed in every New Mexico personal injury case.
To get straight to the point, the simple answer is that your prior conditions will not prevent you from recovery and may not matter at all. In fact, there may be cases where the prior injuries or conditions actually cause the subsequent car accident to have much more serious consequences, with a consequent greater recovery than it otherwise would have.
In legal terms, the issue is referred to as preexisting injuries. Preexisting injuries must be addressed. The simple fact is that the insurance company will not, and realistically should not, have to pay for injuries that occurred prior to the accident and were unrelated to the accident.
However, unraveling what was caused by the accident and what wasn’t is not always that easy. For instance, if you have a prior back condition and you get into a car accident, did you suffer further back injuries, did the injury worsen the existing condition, or did the accident have no further consequences to your back as the adjuster will likely argue?
More to the point, should the prior back injury prevent you from recovery on your auto accident claims?
Your Prior Injuries and Conditions Will Not Prevent You From Recovery on Your Claims
The answer here is Absolutely Not! The prior back condition will be considered. In fact, the prior weakened back may have resulted in far greater injuries than otherwise. The challenge as suggested is to determine what was caused by the accident, what was worsened by the accident and what was unaffected by the accident.
Naturally, the insurance adjuster is going to argue that the injuries and conditions were completely unaffected. By some miracle, they will argue that despite the violent collision, you were not injured by the car accident and are no worse off than before. From this, they will conclude that there are no injuries or damages and probably offer you little to no money for your injuries.
This argument is quite common. It is in fact the basis for what is a common practice of offering very low settlement amounts for a quick (and lopsided) settlement of your personal injury claims.
Do not be intimidated by the adjuster. Likewise, do not trust that he or she is on your side, as they will often proclaim. If you have been seriously injured and have preexisting injuries, you really should seek the guidance of an auto accident attorney that is experienced with handling insurance companies and handling preexisting injuries.
Fully Disclose Your Preexisting Conditions
Assuming you do contact an attorney, one of the first things that he or she will ask is about your preexisting injuries, health conditions and medical treatment. Do not be alarmed. The attorney needs this information in order to competently and successfully resolve your personal injury claims.
Why so you may ask? It is extremely important that you disclose all preexisting injuries and conditions. Concealing them will likely seriously damage your chances for winning your case.
Prior to settlement or trial if it gets to that point, the insurance company will have obtained all of your medical records typically for the past 10 years. It is safe to assume that they will discover the concealment of preexisting conditions. And is often the case, the concealment itself will do far more harm than the preexisting injuries.
Moreover, your attorney can handle your preexisting conditions. The attorney will be able to explain why the preexisting conditions are irrelevant to the calculation of damages. The attorney may also be able to show how the preexisting injuries actually resulted in even greater harm. This leads to a discussion of the “eggshell plaintiff” rule, which in essence means the insurance company is liable for any additional injuries caused by the preexisting conditions.
In short, do not worry about your preexisting injuries or conditions. Let the attorney handle it. But keep in mind the attorney must be aware of them to properly handle them. So be honest with your attorney regarding your prior injuries and conditions. To do otherwise will likely damage your claim and may indeed result in the withdrawal of your attorney from your case.