Case Management, Expert Witness, File Review, Legal Support, Medical Consultation

Auto Accident Lawyers No Longer Stopped By Pre-Existing Conditions

 February 1, 2017

By  Deborah L Weiner Katz, OTR/L, CCM, CLCP

It is no longer unheard of for car accident victims to win their cases in court despite having pre-existing injuries. All that is required is sophisticated medical knowledge of these conditions. That is where we come in. Our medical experts prepare and manage legal cases just like this.

It has always been standard practice for defense attorneys in these cases to use pre-existing conditions in an effort to diminish their client’s responsibility for crash-related injuries, thus reducing or eliminating the need for compensation. It is a common argument. However, the tide has been turning recently due to the intervention of specialists like us. Take the case of Richard Bolotta, for example.  This was not a case we worked on, but is very similar to many that we do.

Mr. Bolotta was driving his pick-up truck two summers ago, when he was rear-ended by a garbage truck. Following discharge from the ER, Bolotta began to experience neck, shoulder and lower back pain.  As for the garbage truck driver, he was fired after he was caught lying about the cause of the accident. His claim that his brakes were faulty proved to be false after mechanics at his employer, Rizzo Environmental Services, verified that they worked just fine.

The crux of Bolotta v. Rizzo Environmental Services, Inc. was not the negligence of the defendant. Instead, Bolotta’s attorneys sought compensation for excess work loss. Immediately, attorneys for the Michigan waste disposal company argued that the accident did not cause significant injury and that pre-existing back and neck conditions would cause Bolotta to end his career soon, anyway.

After all, as a machine repairman at a steel plant in the Michigan suburb of Warren, Bolotta was prone to plenty of lifting, bending, stooping, carrying and climbing. This resulted in a degenerative disc disease and related surgeries. Naturally, defense attorneys attempted to establish a link between this pre-existing condition and the neck, back, and spinal injuries Bolotta sustained in the accident which resulted in cervical and lumbar surgeries as well as in symptoms such depression, anxiety, chronic pain, PTSD and difficulty sleeping.

That is where medical experts stepped in. By understanding the pathology of degenerative disc disease, they were able to prove that the plaintiff was permanently disabled and unable to work. The outcome was a $1.925 million dollar settlement. The key was mutual case evaluation acceptance. What this means is that, due to testimony made possible by medical experts, both parties were able to agree on a settlement in the plaintiff’s favor.

Mere dismissal based on pre-existing conditions is no longer a foregone conclusion in these sorts of cases. Spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury happen to be specialties of ours. If you, a loved one, or a client has suffered a spinal cord or brain injury as a pre-existing condition or as the result of an accident, please contact us immediately.

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