Over the course of decades representing injured people, I've found that a common scenario is one in which an individual, who has never sought treatment for back or neck pain, as an example, is confronted with startling news. After being injured in an accident, they are advised that an insurance company doctor determined that all of their post-accident pain complaints are related to a previously undiagnosed degenerative or arthritic condition in their spine- and not the accident they were just in. Whether this previously hidden condition is phrased as “osteoarthritis”, “degenerative disc disease” “arthritic or degenerative changes” or something similar, the result is the same.
A physician has just given testimony in a case that the reason that someone's neck or back hurts is not because of any accident, but because of some previously unknown, undiagnosed, asymptomatic condition for which the person never received treatment and indeed did not know that they had at all.
Not surprisingly, the initial reaction may be surprise, or certain amount of disbelief and incredulity. When the cold reality and potential effect of that opinion sets in - the reaction often turns to anger. An individual who was injured in an automobile accident, who perhaps has undergone months of post-accident therapy and rehabilitation, and deals with daily pain, soreness, stiffness, loss of range of motion and associated maladies, has been told by medical professional that all of these symptoms are related to a naturally occurring, previously unknown condition -and not to the accident This condition never caused them any problems. It’s as if the accident did not happen at all. Physicians will sometimes give an opinion that the injury from the accident “exacerbated” or “aggravated” a previously undiagnosed, underlying degenerative condition, thereby making it painful and causing symptoms where none existed before. The extent of that exacerbation can vary from temporary and minor, to permanent and serious. Indeed, some physicians will state that an exacerbation or aggravation of an underlying condition can be more serious and cause more problems for the patient then a distinct, frank, new injury to the affected area.
Whatever the scenario, the difficulty for the injured person remains the same. In light of a medical opinion that a person symptoms are related to a naturally occurring process, and not to an accident...
...how does that accident victim convince a jury that whatever the condition of their neck back or spine was, they never had this pain or these difficulties before?
Medical evidence, by its very nature, can be interpreted in more than one way. In many instances, one interpretation of the medical evidence will favor the position of the insurance company, and you can be sure that the insurance company will procure a doctor to give that favorable opinion. A seasoned and experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help you articulate, convincingly present the ways in which your life has been affected by your injuries.