How Can Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Affect My Case?
Richard Schwartz: Everybody has pre-existing injuries. It's not uncommon to get an x-ray that says your disk is degenerative or you're having arthritic problems -- those are things that just happen with time, but an accident can make those conditions worse. For instance, if you had a bad back, and you were asymptomatic or didn't have any real problems with it until the accident, then that accident accelerated your pain. That means that you would have probably had that back pain 50 years from now, but you're having it now because the auto accident made it worse.
It's really important that you get medical documentation to make the distinction between pre-existing and what has now happened and whether the condition has been made worse. That doctor is very important -- it's really important that you go to a doctor and explain to him that you were asymptomatic or did not have these problems until the car accident. Once you do that, that doctor will probably say that this condition worsened because of the accident.
Many times and in many cases, we have to do what is called an independent medical examination (IME), where we have an independent doctor look at the medical records and make the determination or what is pre-existing, what was caused by the accident, and what's been accelerated or exacerbated by the accident. All of those are factors in determining how much your case is worth.
Should You Go to Trial?
When many people envision a personal injury case, they imagine going to trial and pleading ...