One issue that comes up a lot in automobile accident cases and FELA railroad cases is the questions of pre-existing conditions, like degenerative disc disease. Pre- existing condition means that the claimant had something wrong with the part of their body before it was injured in the car or train accident
The law is generally that the person hurt in an accident can not recover for the pre-existing condition, but they can recover for any worsening of that condition by the accident in question. That is the basic law applicable to a Virginia car wreck case. The law in a FELA case for an injured railroad worker may be slightly different depending upon what the plaintiff’s lawyer can convince the judge is the appropriate standard. In either event the existence of a physical problem before the accident in question always raises medical and legal issue for the personal injury lawyer.
On one hand a person with degenerative disc disease in their back is more likely to suffer a serious injury with the impact. So in this way the lawyer for the injured person can argue that the fact he had a pre existing condition made him more susceptible to a worse injury then if they had a perfectly normal back before the wreck.
On the other hand a clever defense lawyer and the insurance company will try to argue that the case is worth less because of the pre existing condition. They will argue that much of what is wrong with the person after the car wreck or work injury on the railroad is really just the old condition showing itself again. How this actually plays out in terms of settlement and or jury trial in Virginia (VA) depends on what the doctors are willing to say. Further, the injury lawyer’s role is to make sure to get all of the information about the pre-existing injury, to know the medicine, and to work with the doctor to express the most favorable opinions supportable by the evidence. Having done this kind of law for over 27 years in Virginia (VA), I am experienced in looking for and handling the pre-existing condition medical issue. In fact, having done this so many times I can almost predict exactly what a doctor will be willing to say about the effect of a pre-existing condition like degenerative disc disease on the injury case, before talking to them. Fortunately I can also what the hired gun insurance defense doctor will say about the issue as well. Working through tough pre-existing injury issues in accident cases is an important part of what I bring to the table to help the client on a Virginia (VA) car wreck or F.E.L.A. case
Authored by: James C. Lewis