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What to Do When Your Pre-existing Injuries Are Aggregated

Steven Matz
May 25, 2023 | Car Accident

A negligent driver can ruin your day in an instant, and that is an understatement. The aftermath of a car accident can not only turn your life upside down, but it can cause even more damage to an injury you already had. The insurance company will not make it easy for you to get compensation for the aggravation of a pre-existing medical condition.

The experienced Michigan personal injury attorneys at Matz Injury Law can help negotiate with the insurance adjuster on your behalf. Our Southfield law firm will also take action against the negligent driver and fight to get you the fair compensation you deserve.

What Is Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition in Michigan?

A man laying down with a cast on his leg

A pre-existing injury or pre-existing medical condition is one that you sustained prior to the accident. Car accidents often lead to injuries, but if the injury in question is in the same area that was already injured before the car accident, this would be an aggravation. For example, if you have back injuries you acquired from helping a friend move, and a car crash makes your back pain worse, you are aggravating a pre-existing medical condition.

Can I Sue for an Accident That Aggravated My Injury? 

MRI of a brain

In Michigan, you can sue the at-fault party if you have severe injuries. Make no mistake, however: The defense attorneys and insurance company on the other side may claim that you should not be able to recover damages due to the injury being pre-existing and that only new injuries should be considered in your personal injury claim

This is not true.

Under Michigan personal injury law, if the aggravation worsens your condition, you may be entitled to compensation. Successfully collecting this compensation, however, can be tricky, so it is always best to seek help from a personal injury lawyer who is well-versed in these types of car accident settlements.

How Do You Prove Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition?

A major insurance company strategy is to “blame the victim” for being involved in an accident that worsens medical conditions the innocent person may already have had. In fact, some insurance companies, and the lawyers they hire, go so far as to suggest that if you had an underlying condition before the accident, you are trying to “take advantage of the system” if you claim your earlier problems are made worse by the accident.

The law in Michigan allows your lawyer to protect you from this strategy. Here is a summary of the law to get you started.

If you have a pre-existing injury or medical problem, and you can prove through medical testimony (not to mention the testimony of friends, family, and co-workers who knew you before and after an accident) that the accident has made the condition worse, the law that will be read to the jury is that the person who caused the accident is responsible for any increase in your impairment that you can document.

In addition, if the jury can’t sort out which of your problems existed before the accident from those you have now, the at-fault driver is responsible for all of your pain and suffering.

We have seen thousands of cases where someone injured in an accident gets an MRI or CT scan that shows both long-term and recent injuries. Many of us have degeneration in our back or in other joints and may not even realize it until a severe impact noticeably affects our alignment. You may have been working every day, enjoying your family life and hobbies without serious limitations even though you have early signs of joint degeneration. Now, a careless driver slams into you, and all that changes. It’s not just a coincidence that you went from functioning normally up to the time of the accident, and now you are in physical therapy, or are seeing a surgeon about the possible need for an operation. If you are vulnerable to injury due to factors out of your control, and a negligent driver makes these conditions worse, they must fix this problem.

So don’t let an insurance adjuster try to convince you that if you had physical problems before an accident, that’s just your tough luck. The law is on your side, as long as you can prove that you are significantly worse off after an accident than before.

What Is the Difference Between Aggravation and Exacerbation?

If a previous injury or health condition is permanently made worse by an accident, it is said to be an aggravated injury. If, on the other hand, the prior injury will return to its baseline condition after some time has passed, it is said to be exacerbated. Whether your injury is aggravated or exacerbated could make a difference in the amount you receive from your car accident settlement.

If you are uncertain whether you have an exacerbated or aggravated pre-existing injury, a knowledgeable car accident lawyer can help with legal advice and developing a strategy for your Michigan auto accident claim.

Types of Pre-Existing Conditions That Can Be Aggravated in Car Accidents 

Many types of aggravated pre-existing conditions show up in personal injury cases. The most common types of injuries that can be aggravated in a car crash include back injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and broken bones. If you suffer aggravation of these types of injuries, your car accident attorney can help you build a case by collecting your medical records and comparing your existing symptoms to your medical history.

Back Injuries

Back injuries can range from a broken back to a herniated disc, muscle injuries, injuries to nerves in your spinal cord, and even paralysis or death. Regardless of the source of the injury causing the serious back pain, aggravation of back injuries can create lifelong problems for accident victims leading to decades of mounting medical bills.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

a man holding his neck in pain

Traumatic brain injuries can be completely life-altering and even lead to premature death. These damages can be tricky to pursue in car accident cases because often they are what are colloquially called “invisible injuries.” TBIs can cause mood and personality changes, difficulty with focus, phantom pains in the extremities, and a world of symptoms that may not be immediately associated with head trauma. Diagnosis by a medical professional is important in these cases.

Broken Bones

If you have broken bones that are not quite healed, a serious car accident can cause the bones to re-break. Aggravation of a broken bone can also come in the form of sores that become infected, which can create new complications with the existing break.

The Eggshell Rule in Michigan 

Michigan has a doctrine known as the eggshell skull rule. This rule is in place to protect plaintiffs. It comes into play when a defendant tries to claim that the plaintiff was abnormally frail due to their pre-existing injury, and that is why they were injured. A defendant in Michigan cannot make such a claim. A plaintiff in such a case is known as an eggshell plaintiff.

Our Attorneys Can Help With Your Claim

At Matz Injury Law, our personal injury and car accident attorneys have decades of combined experience dealing with cases like yours. We have represented people from all over Michigan who have suffered at the hands of negligent, reckless, or deliberately malicious drivers, and we have won millions in settlements and verdicts.

We build trusting, long-lasting, and powerful attorney-client relationships and treat every client like a member of our own family. If you were injured in a car accident caused by someone else, do not face the insurance companies by yourself. Let us take on the fight for you. Call us at 1-866-22Not33 or fill out our online contact form for legal advice and a free consultation today.

steven matz headshot

Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.