Insurance companies love to see “Degenerative Disk Disease” and other similar diagnoses of degeneration in medical records, and they – inaccurately – deny claims based on the fact that they assert the claim is based on a pre-existing or unrelated injury.  Don’t let this deter you from seeking compensation for injuries sustained in an accident where degeneration is present.  You are still entitled to compensation for injuries that are related to the accident, along with any damages for the aggravation or exacerbation of a previous injury.

If you have been diagnosed with degenerative disk disease, your condition makes you vulnerable to increased injury, and, pursuant to the well-established “eggshell skull” doctrine, a negligent person who causes injuries is still responsible for the damages they cause, regardless if you were more susceptible to injury than a person without the condition.

What is disk degeneration? 

Disk degeneration is a normal part of the aging process.  In intervertebral disks, it can cause pain to the point of interfering with daily activities.  For most people, it does not cause a problem.  From a medical standpoint, the disk reduces its ability to act as a shock absorber as a result of becoming dehydrated.

This causes a decrease in the space between the vertebrae and may also cause discs to bulge outward over time. This degeneration makes people more susceptible to accident or injury, thereby requiring less force to do the same damage to the spine than a younger or more able-bodied person. This is known as a prior infirm condition. Disk degeneration also causes a person to be more inclined to disk herniation. Trauma, such as a car collision or a hard fall, is the most common cause of the activation of symptoms caused by degenerative disk disease.

Plaintiffs will often find that insurance companies use degeneration as an excuse to explain away your post-accident pain. They argue that they shouldn’t have to pay to fix a condition that was already there. It is the pain, however, that is the key. If the traumatic event causes the pain to present or increase, even to the point that a surgery is necessary, the law says that you can recover damages.

This can present extremely complex and nuanced issues that require the expertise of a personal injury lawyer Little Rock AR relies on and a team of medical experts.  For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran trial lawyer to deal with issues of exacerbation of pre-existing injuries.


Thanks to Steve Harrelson and our friends and co-contributors from Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for their added insight into degenerative disk disease.