Automobile wrecks can worsen old wounds as easily as they inflict new injuries. However, car insurance companies are not always so understanding. If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, the adjuster could use your pre-existing condition against you, claiming the company has no obligation to assist in your recovery as our Washington car accident attorney explains.
Pre-Existing Automobile Accident Injuries in Washington
A car accident could cause pre-existing injuries to become even worse, introducing new complications, worsening discomfort, and exacerbating pain. The following are examples of pre-existing conditions that could be aggravated by a crash:
- Herniated discs
- Lower back strain
- Knee and shoulder injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Previously fractured bones
Even in the aftermath of a catastrophic accident, victims sometimes hesitate to file personal injury claims, believing that their pre-existing condition could preclude them from damages.
However, Washington law specifically affords injured persons—including those with pre-existing injuries—the right to claim compensation for any damages they sustained in an accident that was not their fault.
The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule
The so-called “eggshell rule” is a legal doctrine that suggests that an at-fault motorist, or their insurance company, should be liable for pre-existing injury damages if the accident caused the victim’s condition to worsen.
Under the “eggshell rule,” insurance companies are required to appraise an accident victim’s physical condition as it existed before the crash. So, even if the victim had existing injuries, the insurer could be compelled to provide additional compensation if the accident caused the victim’s overall condition to degrade.
You could be entitled to “eggshell” compensation if the following statements are true:
- Your pre-existing condition was stable.
- Prior to the accident, there was no reason to believe that your condition would change or become worse.
The “eggshell rule” also applies to pre-existing conditions that make the victim more susceptible to injury.
How Insurance Companies Try to Counter “Eggshell Claims”
Although the “eggshell rule” might afford accident victims the right to recover damages for the exacerbation of a pre-existing condition, insurance companies are nonetheless notorious for seizing every excuse to reduce or deny claims.
Once the adjuster highlights a potentially problematic, pre-accident injury, they could try to argue that:
- The pre-existing injury was not impacted or affected by the crash.
- The pre-existing injury was not stable and could have been reasonably expected to deteriorate.
- The pre-existing injury was caused by the accident, but the car insurance company should only be responsible for covering your short-term medical costs instead of your anticipated care needs.
Why You Should Avoid Engaging the Insurance Company without an Attorney
Regardless of whether you have a pre-existing injury, the adjuster might try to pressure you into:
- Signing a medical records waiver. The adjuster needs to review your medical records to assess your claim. However, they do not need unfettered access to your entire health history. When insurance companies ask to review your records, they are really hoping to find further excuses to blame your pain and suffering on a non-accident-related injury.
- Providing a recorded statement. Insurance companies frequently pressure accident victims into providing recorded statements. While you might wish to share your story, speaking to the adjuster without an attorney present provides a critical opportunity for the adjuster to ask leading questions or goad you into providing unnecessary information.
- Admitting fault for the accident. After you have filed an insurance claim, the adjuster will likely do everything in their power to minimize the company’s liability. If you so much as apologize for being involved in an accident—even if the accident was not your fault—the adjuster could construe this as an admission of wrongdoing, which they could use as an excuse to decrease your compensation.
Fortunately, you are never required to speak to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present.