Stuff in the ‘rear-end auto crashes’ Category

Rear-End Auto Crashes: Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

In the last Blog, we considered the scenario in which a rear-end collision triggered spinal pain and disability because, through the natural aging process, as our spines develop degenerative disc disease (“DDD”), our spines become more susceptible to injury after an impact (read more about degenerative disc disease/DDD here).

spinal injuries from car accident In this Blog, we discuss a different scenario: you already have a pre-existing back condition that is well-managed and you are enjoying life, but suddenly a rear-end impact aggravates your back condition causing it to become unbearable. Do you have a personal injury case? Absolutely!

The attorneys at the law firm of Grazian & Volpe have handled hundreds of auto crash cases and understand the medicine and law dealing with the aggravation of pre-existing injuries. In this Blog, which is part of a series on spinal injuries caused by rear-end auto accidents, we shall use a typical case of an aggravation of a pre-existing injury and explain how such a case is handled.

Aggravation of Pre-Existing Condition

Take the case of a 50-year-old man who goes to his doctor complaining of low back pain, gets an MRI performed, and is diagnosed with a bulging disc. He has occasional pain and discomfort from his bulging disc, but he learns to manage it through physical exercise and maintaining his health to keep his disc from further deteriorating. In other words, he is doing nothing that would, of itself, aggravate, i.e. worsen, his bulging disc. Altogether, his condition is stable and requires neither medication nor surgery.

Enter a negligent 20-something-year-old driver who rear-ends the 50-year-old man at a stop sign while texting a friend. The man now complains of excruciating pain associated with the same bulging disc. His doctor orders another MRI, but the man’s disc appears the same: it hasn’t herniated. Nonetheless, the man still complains of experiencing more pain after the accident than before and he can sit for only half the time that he used to be able to. So, his doctor prescribes him prescription anti-inflammatories and physical therapy and advises he take off work to rest in bed. What happens now?

The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule

In Illinois personal injury law, there is what is called the “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule. The “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule basically means that the defendant, or negligent driver, must take the injured plaintiff as he or she is found. Basically, whatever state the injured plaintiff was in at the time of the accident—that is the state to which he should be returned by means of compensation.

In the case of our 50-year-old man, the law says that he should to be compensated for the aggravation or worsening or his bulging disc. Because the man cannot be physically returned to his pre-accident status, the law provides the monetary compensation for aggravating effect of the collision.

Proving Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

Juries are notorious for having difficulty deciding cases that involve an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Why? The trial attorney for the injured plaintiff may be inexperienced or unskilled in how to communicate your situation coherently, and there’s nothing worse for your case than a confused jury.

When presenting your case to the jury, your attorneys should strain to make the jury’s deliberations as easy as possible. This means lining up evidence that makes it easy for the jury to gauge the aggravation of your pre-existing injury and to put a value on your pain and suffering.

Every case is different, though, which is to say that the evidence needed or available to prove an aggravation of a pre-existing condition will be different in each case. Prior and post medical records are extremely important: the prior will establish your “baseline,” while the post will demonstrate what aggravation resulted from the accident. Employment records can also be helpful if they show a change in occupation or position that can be tied to the aggravation. An impartial “injury witness” also goes a long way to convincing a jury of the aggravation, particularly when this disinterested witness can attest to your health and activity before and after the accident. Finally, if you participated in hobbies or activities that you had to give up on account of the aggravation, this also is helpful evidence.

Cases involving the aggravation of a pre-existing condition are not the easiest to win. Insurance or defense attorneys know that a lot of discovery work must go into such cases, and oftentimes expert medical witnesses must be called. This tends to add up quickly, subtracts from your ultimate compensation, and discourages some personal injury attorneys from taking such cases.

Nevertheless, all cases are different and you should definitely seek a free consultation before dismissing the possibility of a lawsuit to recover for your aggravation. Only an experienced injury attorney can give you a sense of the strength of your case. Don’t wait: call attorney Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe today at 773.838.8100, or fill out our online form for a free consultation.


The above article was written by Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe. Kurt Lloyd has been practicing personal injury law in the Chicagoland area for over 30 years and has helped his clients win more than $355 million in jury verdicts and settlements from insurance companies and corporations. Kurt helps his injured clients regain their lives after injury. The information provided comes from his extensive legal and medical research and years of experience trying injury cases in courtrooms throughout Illinois.

Rear-End Auto Crashes: Spinal Trauma and Pre-Existing Degenerative Disc Disease (“DDD”)

In a rear-end auto crash, the impact often results in injury to the cervical or lumbar spine. As we each grow older, the impact can cause much more immediate signs and symptoms of a spinal injury, because as we age a normal underlying condition known as Degenerative Disc Disease (“DDD”) can act as a set-up for a spinal injury.

DDD is a natural result of aging: we all have it to greater or lesser extent. But as our spines age normally the majority of us do not experience any pain or limitation from DDD. We remain asymptomatic. Although insurance companies and their defense lawyers know this is a normal phenomenon, they will likely mount a rigorous “Triple-D” defense as the cause of a rear-end accident victim’s pain and disability. That is, defense lawyers will blame normal aging of the spine as the cause of your injuries.

Some personal injury firms might take the bait and make a quick settlement based on the Triple-D defense, but the attorneys at Grazian & Volpe have encountered this misleading defense many times before, and know it can be overcome to get you the full settlement you deserve.

The attorneys at the law firm of Grazian & Volpe have handled hundreds of auto crash cases and understand the medicine related to Degenerative Disc Disease. In this Blog, which is part of a series on spinal injuries caused by auto accidents, we shall explain what DDD is, how it is diagnosed, and what is done to treat a it.


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

degenerative disc disease (DDD) Degenerative Disc Disease is a natural consequence of aging. Everyone experiences DDD to a greater or lesser degree during their life. As the discs between the vertebrae in the spine age and become dehydrated and “flattened,” DDD occurs.

The human spine is made up of a column of vertebrae with jelly-like, fluid-filled discs in between them. hese discs act as the shock absorbers during everyday activities and facilitate flexibility. Our spinal discs are made up of two parts: the outer, fibrous part known as the annulus or annular ring; and the inner part, which is a jelly-like nucleus that absorbs shocks to the spine.

When we’re born, these discs are comprised of 80% water. However, as we age, the water content naturally decreases and the discs generally deteriorate with the passing years of wear and tear. The areas of the spine most susceptible to disc degeneration are the cervical spine (neck) and the lumbar spine (lower back) because these areas undergo the most motion and stress from everyday living.

What the degeneration of these discs means is that your body goes from having Krispy Kreme donut-like cushions between your vertebrae to cushions more like Swedish pancakes, with little shock absorption and suppleness.

But the most important thing to remember is that this doesn’t mean you automatically “feel” it as your spine ages. You can live into your 80s without experiencing any pain related to the degeneration of your discs, because DDD is usually asymptomatic. That is, until a rear-end auto collision occurs.

This is all to state the obvious: a 30-year-old body and a 60-year-old body will respond to the trauma of a rear-end collision differently. The 30-year-old might get up and skip away, while the 60-year-old can barely turn his neck. While the insurance lawyers launch into their “Triple-D” defense, arguing that your neck pain is just the result of a pre-existing DDD, the truth is that a car accident can activate or trigger DDD symptoms that would likely never have developed in the absence of the trauma.


Diagnosis of DDD

Importantly, the trauma of the auto accident is the likely the cause of neck or back pain and disability, and not the pre-existing DDD in your spine which was asymptomatic before the trauma from the auto crash occurred. Therefore, the only certain way to learn of the condition of your discs is to be diagnosed by a medical professional.

A medical professional will take your medical history and perform a physical examination, checking for abnormalities, reflexes, and range of motion. But to diagnose DDD in the spine, a physician should order an MRI scan of the spinal area involved.


Long Term Treatment of DDD

In patients who have silent, underlying DDD, but then suffer spinal trauma in an auto accident causing pain, many long treatments are available. Long-term treatments in trauma patients who also have DDD target reducing the related neck or back pain through pain management, physical therapy, and lifestyle modification. Pain management might include heat or ice treatments and pain medications. Physical therapy might include stretching to improve flexibility, strengthening exercises to improve stability, and/or aerobic exercises to maintain healthy circulation. Some lifestyle modification might include avoiding nicotine and excess alcohol, using ergonomic furniture, and incorporating more movement into your daily routine.

The good news about car accident trauma patients who also have DDD is that, while the discs naturally degenerate, the pain triggered or exacerbated by spinal degeneration will actually feel better with time and proper treatment.

If you suffer from neck or low back pain due to someone’s negligence, getting an accurate diagnosis of your injuries is crucial. It is important to be informed and to utilize qualified medical professionals and experienced personal injury lawyers to help you fully recover. Call attorney Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe today at 773.838.8100, or fill out our online form for a free consultation.


The above article was written by Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe. Kurt Lloyd has been practicing personal injury law in the Chicagoland area for over 30 years and has helped his clients win more than $355 million in jury verdicts and settlements from insurance companies and corporations. Kurt helps his injured clients regain their lives after injury. The information provided comes from his extensive legal and medical research and years of experience trying injury cases in courtrooms throughout Illinois.