I had surgery seven years ago to correct a pinched nerve in my back. Last fall, I was involved in an auto accident just outside Wilmington, and I am again having serious back pain. Does the other driver—who caused the accident—have to pay my medical bills, even though I had a previous spine problem?

If the other driver acted with negligence or malice to cause your New Hanover County car accident, then he potentially has legal liability for the consequences. That means that if other people suffer losses due to his behavior, he has a duty to set them right: to restore them (as much as possible) to the condition they enjoyed before the accident.

The legal system recognizes that this is often impossible to accomplish in a literal sense. A negligent driver can’t make a fractured bone become whole or make a scar disappear. Instead, our society demands that the responsible driver pay money to cover the costs of any property losses and the expenses of medical care. We ask a jury to calculate the equivalent cash value of suffering and pain, and we award that amount to the injured party, too.

Now, as far as your specific case, there are at least three reasons why your previous medical history should not be a barrier to you recovering full compensation for your North Carolina auto accident injuries:

  • It’s ancient history. Your spine problem was resolved seven years ago. In a sense, your history of a pinched nerve is irrelevant: you were not suffering from back pain before the accident, and now, you are. If the accident caused your back pain, then the negligent driver has a duty to compensate you.
  • It’s a different injury. You don’t know yet whether your current back pain has any relationship at all with the pinched nerve you suffered in the past. Perhaps your current pain signals a different type of back injury. Perhaps there is another pinched nerve, but in a different location. Until additional medical tests can provide a complete diagnosis, you should not assume you have merely re-injured an old wound.
  • The negligent driver doesn’t get his pick of North Carolina traffic injury victims. Insurance companies and car accident defendants have to address the losses of the victims as they find them. Insurance company lawyers, in particular, are quick to blame preexisting conditions for new pain, but that claim can be refuted by solid medical evidence and testimony. Even if your previous injury made you more vulnerable to being hurt in a car accident, it remains true that the accident was the single necessary element that led to your losses.

For a deeper analysis of your case, we encourage you to contact one of our experienced Wilmington car accident lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. Speaks Law Firm can be reached locally at 910-341-7570 or toll-free from anywhere across the state at 1-877-593-4233. You can also learn a lot about what you may face by reading The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, our law firm’s manual for prospective clients; if you ask for it, we’ll send you a FREE copy when you call us for your appointment.

R. Clarke Speaks
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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.