At the initial consultation I always ask about past accidents. Sometimes I get hesitation from the client. This can be a red flag because one of the most important parts of any Florida accident case is credibility. If a client cannot generate trust with his or her lawyer, how can they expect to do so with the jury? If there is ever a time to be blatantly honest, it’s with your lawyer.
Tell Your Lawyer Everything
Your Florida accident lawyer needs to know everything about your case. This includes your past accidents, medical treatment, and pre-existing conditions. You may think, “if I keep this information to myself, no one will ever know.” Trust me, the defense will find out. It always pays to be 100% candid with your lawyer! Generally everything you say is protected by attorney-client privilege.
I represented a gentleman severely injured in a head-on car crash. During his deposition the defense attorney asked him if he ever used drugs. My client said, “if it’s around, I will smoke it.” The fact that my client smoked weed in the past had nothing to do with his current case, but because he was 100% honest in his response, he came across as extremely credible. Within a few weeks his case settled for the policy limits.
In another case, my opponent was extremely deceptive. Basic discovery requests were met with extreme opposition. This signaled he was hiding something. Low and behold I found information that severely damaged my opponent’s case. Had my opponent been candid from the beginning, I likely wouldn’t have discovered the harmful evidence. The moral of the story is tell your lawyer everything. He or she is trained in determining what is important and what is not. What should be disclosed and what should not. If you cannot trust your own accident lawyer, then who can you trust?
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Besides asking about prior accidents I also ask about prior or “pre-existing” medical conditions and injuries. You see insurance companies love to argue that the injuries were not “caused” by the accident, but a result of a pre-existing medical condition. Florida follows the “egg-shell plaintiff rule.” This means you take the plaintiff as you find them with all their defects (i.e. pre-existing conditions).
For example, if a 21 year old trips and falls in a parking lot they’ll usually get right up, a little embarrassed, but with no significant injuries. That same fall to a 75 year old nets a completely different result. The 75 year old may have a broken hip and need surgery. The egg shell plaintiff rule allows the 75 year old to collect the full amount of her damages, even if the accident would not net the same result for everyone. The point is that even if you have a prior medical condition, you still may have a case. Because of this you should not hide your medical history from your attorney.
The reason your lawyer needs to know about your medical history is because it allows your lawyer to neutralize the potential damage. Look, it’s going to come up. You don’t want your lawyer to find out for the first time at a deposition (or trial) that you had a prior accident with the same injuries. If your lawyer knows in advance, he or she will have an opportunity to explain the situation. Accident lawyers hate surprises!
Full Disclosure Helps Your Case
Telling your lawyer about your past accidents and medical history often helps your case. For example, if you had an accident a few years ago for which you saw a chiropractor and had an MRI, your lawyer could obtain those records and see if your current injuries are new. This is especially true with MRI scans. For example, if the MRI from a past accident shows a normal L5-S1 disc, but your latest MRI shows a disc herniation, then it’s more likely than not that your herniated disc was caused by the accident. In other words, “but for” the accident you would have a healthy disc.
As a matter of practice I demand my clients provide me with their complete medical history, including the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of their primary care physician. This allows me to obtain past medical records and see if they have complained in the past about their current injuries. Again, just because they had a past accident or injury does not mean they don’t have a case. It just means that we’ll need to argue that it’s an “exacerbation of pre-existing condition.” More often then not a prior injury will have resolved. This is especially true when the client confirms that they became symptomatic only after the accident. Again, this helps your lawyer prove “causation.” Remember, the essential elements of a Florida accident case are: (1) duty; (2) breach; (3) causation; and (4) damages. By far, causation is the most difficult element to prove. Help your lawyer by telling him or her about your past accidents and medical history.
For More Information
If you have additional questions about accident cases in Florida and whether or not you should tell your lawyer about your past accidents visit our website at longofirm.com and please don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!
Micah J. Longo, Esq.
12555 Orange Drive, Ste. 233
Davie, FL 33330
Tel: (954) 862-3608
Fax: (954) 944-1916