Aggravation of Pre-existing Injuries

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in .

“I have had a ‘bad back’ for many years. A recent car accident made it worse. How can I prove that?”

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 who is injured in an accident gets an MRI or CT scan that shows both long-term and fresh injuries. Lots of us have degeneration in our back, or in other joints, and may not even realize it until a severe impact “jars” us out of alignment. You may have been working every day, enjoying your family life and your 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, that is their problem, not yours!

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 you were before.

If you are in this situation, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney who knows the area of Michigan no-fault law.

Source: Jury Instructions M Civ JI 50.10 and M Civ JI 50.11

Written By Steven Matz

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. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 33 1/3%. 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.

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