I was talking to a client recently about his car accident. Before the accident, he said he had lots of surgeries before including neck and lower back surgery. More than 10 years ago he had a multi-level cervical fusion. He said he was doing fine up until the accident.

After the accident, he is facing a brand new cervical fusion to fix problems in his neck. He has numbness in his hands and severe headaches. He drinks out of plastic cups because he is afraid of dropping a glass. His neurosurgeon is scheduling him for a multi-level fusion of the entire cervical region from C6-7 to C3. Because of the recent accident he wanted to know how his previous surgeries fit in, and how his case was going to be handled.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when an old injury gets aggravated:

1. Everyone over the age of 30 starts having changes in their body which are a part of getting older. These changes are called degenerative disc disease  by doctors. Actually it is not a disease at all, but simply a normal part of  the aging process.

As we grow older the changes are easier for doctors to read on xrays and MRI’s. So it is important for a lawyer, when arguing your damages case, to as carefully as possible distinguish between that type of change (which is totally normal) and those caused by an accident. To know what changes have occurred it is very important to have an accurate medical history. One common change is a ruptured or herniated disc.

2. I told him that the law only allowed recovery for any new injuries or the aggravation of pre-existing injuries which were caused by the accident. Sometimes it is difficult, even for a doctor to pinpoint the cause of a change in a person’s medical condition.

Changes in a person’s medical status may be the natural result of changes which occur over time, a disease, the negligence of a defendant or a combination of all these factors. It may be caused by two or more accidents or trauma, some of which may happen at the same time, or happen over a period of months or years.

Sometimes changes after an accident are subtle, like a ruptured disc and they may take weeks or months to surface.

I told him his treating physician would be in the best position to state what new injuries he had and whether his medical condition was worsened, aggravated or exacerbated by the accident in question. The testimony of his doctor would be admissible in a court of law as an expert opinion.

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