Claim denied because of a "preexisting condition?"

One common defense tactic in defending a claim for personal injuries is to allege that the injured person’s continuing problems are not from the collision but rather result from a preexisting condition.  A preexisting condition is some disease or condition of the body that the person had before the date of the collision.  There are two main kinds of a preexisting condition.  (1) Where the injured person had treatment before the date of the collision for the same part of the body that was injured in the collision; and (2) A silent condition such as arthritis or degenerative joint disease where a person had this condition in his or her body but was unaware of it because it did not cause any pain or problems.

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In our experience, there are two good ways to counter this defense.  First, we work closely with your doctors to show that the injury accelerated the condition beyond its normal progression.  In other words, it sped up the disease process beyond what would have happened had there been no collision.  Another way is to have the physician find that the injury aggravated the preexisting condition, that is made it much worse than it was before the collision.  Another tact is to argue that the injury activated the preexisting condition, in other words, started the pain process and started all of the problems that the injured person experienced after the collision.  One good example is degenerative conditions in the back which can be known as either degenerative disc disease or degenerative joint disease.  In lay terms, this is arthritis.  Our bodies start aging in our early 20s and there are subtle changes in the spine due to the wear and tear from basic activities of life.  This process continues throughout a person’s life.  Because these changes are slow and gradual, the body adjusts for these and so we do not feel pain or feel limitations.  When a traumatic injury occurs, this balance is thrown out of whack and suddenly we experience pain where we had never experienced pain before.

One of the other methods we use to counteract this defense is to have testimony from friends and family describing how the injured person’s ability to do things, to function, and enjoy activities has changed after the date of the collision.  What we try to do is show how the injured person’s ability to work or to do household activities or to enjoy recreational activities has been reduced because of the injuries suffered in the collision.