Over the past almost 20 years, I have learned MANY things that clients do not tell their personal injury attorneys, because they are embarrassed or they think it is not relevant to the case at hand or for a myriad of other reasons and this withheld information was the nail in the coffin to their personal injury claim. When your personal injury lawyer asks you a question, you need to tell them the complete truth. Lack of open communication, between the personal injury attorney and client (injured party), is one of the most common difficulties in successful resolution of personal injury claims. Below are just a few of the pieces of information that must be communicated to your personal injury attorney, for successful resolution of your accident injury claim.
1. Past medical history
When dealing with a personal injury claim, the injured party’s past medical history is VERY important. For those of us with little or no medical experience, we might not see how long-lasting arm pain could possibly be related to an undiagnosed neck injury and that would be very important information for the attorney that is representing you on a neck injury, following a car accident. It also might seem unimportant to tell your personal injury attorney about that time that you fell off a horse and broke your arm, when you are there for a back injury, following a slip and fall accident, but a fall, depending on how the fall happened, could also have caused hidden injuries, that were worsened by the slip and fall accident. I could go on and on with examples of incomplete past medical histories, but I think those two examples make the point. When your personal injury attorney asks you about your past medical history, tell them everything! Rarely can there be a time when you give your personal injury attorney TOO MUCH medical history!
2. Past criminal history
I have seen more than my fair share of cases, fall apart, when the adjuster tells me, the personal injury attorney, about the list of crimes committed by the injured party. You might be thinking, what does a person’s criminal history have to do with a personal injury claim? If so, that is a great question. Even though it may seem irrelevant, it is not. In Texas, the jury can hear about a person’s crimes of moral turpitude, if they have been convicted of them in the past 10 years. A crime of moral turpitude deals with dishonesty or deceit. Some examples of crimes or moral turpitude are lying to a police officer, mail fraud, tax evasion, prostitution, failure to stop and render aid, theft, shoplifting, aggravated assault, communicating a false alarm, and bank fraud. One other point, when it comes to past crimes and how they affect your personal injury claim, is impeachment. If your case goes to trial, and on the stand you “open the door”, the defense attorney could potentially talk about ANY crimes committed in the previous 10 years. If you get up on the stand and tell the jury what an upstanding citizen you are, you ALWAYS follow the law, then the defense attorney could try to use those 15 speeding tickets against you. So, note to self, when your personal injury attorney asks you about your past criminal history, do not leave out one single detail!
3. Prior statements
Prior statements, of which your personally injury attorney is unaware, can really be a game killer, because most of these are digitally recorded, written down or typed. When your personal injury attorney asks you who you have talked to about your accident, you need to tell them EVERY person you have spoke to about the accident. You also need to tell them what you told them and if it was or was not recorded or written down. Having all of this information, up front, helps your personal injury attorney to better prepare for your case.
a. Prior statements to investigating officers
Typically, if you are in an accident and the police come to the scene, a police report is made. Officers usually question the people involved and use these statements to complete their reports. Sometimes officers also have the witnesses complete written statements. You need to make sure your personal injury attorney knows about everything that you said to the investigating officer and any written statements that you made as well.
b. Prior statements to medical providers
Your personal injury attorney should request a copy of your medical records, from doctors that treated you, related to your personal injury. If you had injuries to the same area of your body, before the accident, you would want to make sure your personal injury attorney knows, so they can decide if they need those “prior statements” as well. Those prior statements could possibly be helpful! The prior records could state that the injured body part was healed at 100% and then it got re-injured in your accident. The records could also say that you never recovered from your previous injury. Both situations could greatly affect your personal injury claim, so you want to make sure your personal injury attorney knows about all prior statements to medical providers.
c. Prior statements to adjusters
Most personal injury attorneys will ask you if you have given a recorded statement to an adjuster, prior to hiring them. Even if you say no, most personal injury attorneys will request a copy of any statements that you made to the adjuster, from the adjuster, prior to being represented by the personal injury attorney. Even if you did not give a “recorded statement”, you still need to let your personal injury attorney know everything that you said to the adjuster. If you told the adjuster you were not hurt after the wreck, that would be very important for the personal injury attorney to know, up front. Following an accident, there is typically a great deal of adrenaline flowing through the body, so it might be hard to identify pain, immediately. Your statement about not being hurt, right after the wreck, could be easily explained away, but the personal injury attorney would have to know about it first!
4. Prior social media posts
People think once they delete something, like a social media post, it is gone forever. WRONG…rarely is anything that was posted on the Internet ever gone, even if you did delete it. In the past decade, adjusters have found a WEALTH of ammunition to use against injured victims, just by looking at their Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter account, etc. In a mediation, I had an adjuster point out to me that my client checked in, on Facebook, at the health club, less then 2 weeks after their car wreck, and continued to check in weekly, even up to the day before the mediation. The adjuster claimed that my client could not have been in any significant pain because they were going to the gym every week. I was able to point out to the adjuster that there was a massage therapist at the gym and that was why my client was there, but that is not always the case. Be careful what you post!
I hope that this has been educational for you and if you ever have to use a personal injury attorney, you will remember this article and practice open and honest communication with your personal injury attorney, so that you do not steal any tools from their tool belt and they are able to advocate on your behalf, as successfully as possible!