A recent court decision had us again thinking about pre-existing injuries. It is very rare to find someone with injuries from an accident, who didn’t previously suffer even minor aches and pains in the general vicinity of the afflicted area. This isn’t a problem if handled properly.
Trouble arises if the issue is not addressed from the outset. A recent court case highlighted how not to handle a pre-existing injury. In the recent case, a person was injured in a car accident. Previously that person had injured that same body part. When he went to the doctor, however, he never told the doctor about the prior injury.
At trial, the defendant introduced both evidence of the prior injury, testimony from an expert that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of degeneration and not trauma, as well as evidence that the plaintiff was previously convicted of fraud.
If handled properly, the plaintiff’s attorney would have directly asked the plaintiff, in front of the jury, about any prior criminal convictions. The evidence is coming in. Therefore, it is best that the plaintiff’s attorney tell the jury about it and not the adversary.
Secondly, it is very important that the client is always truthful to his/her doctor. There is nothing worse that hearing your client’s doctor cross examined about the client’s past that the doctor didn’t know about. The client must constantly be reminded to be completely accurate with his/her doctors. The attorney should always be reviewing the medical records to make sure that the treating doctor has the full picture.
Finally, if diagnostic tests reveal evidence of degeneration, embrace it, don’t run from it. Let’s face it, when you get to a certain point in life, we all have evidence of degeneration. Every doctor will concede this. It’s not that big of a deal.