By Michael Hancock
The following is one of many car accident questions asked on avvo.com which attorney Mike Hancock answered in September, 2013.
Car Accident Question: I was involved in a car accident and did get medical attention. About a week after a rear end collision, I reached out to a doctor due to low back pain increasing. I was able to follow up with the doctor after the x-rays and learned that I have degenerative discs in my lower back and scoliosis ( the scoliosis I new about). Although this was not caused by the accident, the doctor said that the impact probably exacerbated these symptoms. I am not sure how long I will be in physical therapy. I have to go three times a week. There was no indication of any permanent injury such as broken bones or bulging discs, etc. I am on anti inflammatory medication, muscle relaxers, and physical therapy right now. I was not at fault for the accident and the other driver was cited. Do I have an injury claim?
Mike Hancock’s answer: You do have an injury claim. The issue will be what is the worth of your claim. By the way, x-rays will not reveal whether you have any bulging or herniated discs. An MRI would reveal those conditions. Let me give you some advice. Make sure the doctor you are treating with is qualified to treat your type of injury. I would shy away from treating with your family physician or PCP. Instead, try to find an orthopedic surgeon, a neurologist, or sometimes a chiropractor. Even though the x-rays revealed degenerative changes, the person who caused the collision is responsible under Florida law for aggravating a pre-existing condition. A lot of people have degenerative conditions of the spine, but never have any problems or symptoms. If you were asymptomatic prior to the accident and now your underlying pre-existing degenerative condition was caused to become symptomatic, the person causing the accident is responsible for all the changes. The real issue will be whether you can prove whether you sustained a permanent injury, or a permanent aggravation of a pre-existing condition. The Florida No-Fault laws require you to prove a permanent injury or a permanent aggravation of a pre-existing condition in order to be entitled to recover ANY money for your pain and suffering. Permanent injury is not the same as permanent disability. They are two totally different concepts. Usually, in a case like yours, your doctor might not be able to render an opinion whether you have a permanent injury for at least four to six months after the accident. The insurance companies will typically defend claims like yours not on the basis that it wasn’t the other guy’s fault, but on the basis that you didn’t suffer a permanent injury.