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Shapiro & Appleton

Personal Injury Lawyers Need Your Complete Medical History

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Anyone hurt in a car accident caused by another driver, injured or made sick at work because conditions and equipment were not safe, or sent to the emergency room after using a defective product or dangerous drug has a right to seek compensation from the person or company responsible for causing harm. Family members of people killed in such circumstances can also seek their day in court.

As a lawyer for a personal injury and wrongful death law firm who represents victims of accidents and negligence, however, I know that reaching a settlement or getting to trial and winning a verdict can be a long, difficult process. Attorneys for insurance companies and businesses do everything they can to draw out, complicate and, to put a very fine point on it, deny efforts to ensure justice.

A favorite trick of insurance company representatives, in particular, is to introduce evidence that an accident victim had health problems before a crash or job-related injury. The goal is to convince a judge or jury that no compensation is owed because the person suing for reimbursement of medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering by "proving" the plaintiff was already being treated for the problem being blamed on the defendant's actions or oversights.

Too often, defense lawyers succeed.

One of the best ways to protect against that defense strategy is to get a complete, thoroughly detailed medical history early in the injury or wrongful death claim process. Doing that may seem like giving ammunition to the defense. Instead, putting together a full health record actually allows a plaintiff's lawyer to work with doctors and other health professionals to build the case for injuries or illnesses being newly caused or severely worsened by what the defendant did or failed to do.

Getting our clients' complete medical record also protects us from situations like one I recently learned about from a personal injury lawyer in Northern Virginia. A judge disallowed his client's lawsuit against a driver and pickup truck maker primarily because the client did not state during pretrial depositions that he had been treated for neck and shoulder pain almost a decade before the traffic accident that prompted him to file suit.

In dismissing the case, the judge wrote:

It is clear to the court that during the discovery process, [the plaintiff] did not disclose the full extent of his prior medical condition. [His] failure to disclose so tainted the discovery process that the court has no choice but to dismiss this case.

The lesson is that you help your own case if you share all your medical history.

EJL

 

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