If you’ve been injured and you bring a claim or lawsuit, your entire medical history becomes an issue in the matter. Why? If you’re claiming that an accident or incident injured a certain part of your body, then the insurance company or defense lawyer evaluating your claim is legally entitled to discover if you’ve ever injured that part of your body before. It’s wise not to hide that information because it most likely will be contained somewhere in a database or in your medical records. Yes, that medical history form you filled out five years ago at a doctor’s office—long before your accident—may very well come back to haunt you.
You may be wondering how an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer can possibly obtain your medical records from five years ago. How could they even know about that doctor? Well, there are several ways they can find out.
First, you should know that insurance companies have access to databases that track a person’s injuries if that person had previously brought a claim or lawsuit for a similar incident. For example, if you settled a claim five years ago for neck and back injuries, the insurance company that settled that claim most likely entered it into a database, along with the fact that it was for back and neck injuries. Insurance companies share this information with other insurance companies through this database. So, if you later bring another claim for back and neck injuries, the insurance company for the second claim will run your name and other identifying information through the database and will immediately learn about your prior injuries.
Second, you should also know that, if your lawyer files a lawsuit on your behalf, then the defense lawyer hired by the insurance company will subpoena your medical records from your healthcare providers. Those medical records will have the names of other providers that you have seen over the years. The defense lawyer will then follow the trail of doctors/healthcare providers and subpoena all of your medical records, in order to get a complete picture of your medical history. That is simply their job.
The problem arises when you’ve failed to disclose your complete medical history to your personal injury lawyer, who, in reliance on what you told them, may have reassured the insurance adjuster handling your second claim that you had no prior injuries. If that is not true and the insurance adjuster handling your claim discovers that fact, you and/or your lawyer will lose credibility, and you may have great trouble obtaining a good result for your claim or case. Specifically, the insurance company may reassign your claim to its fraud unit or may refuse to settle your claim without a lawsuit. If your lawyer files a lawsuit, then the defense lawyer hired by the insurance company will likely try to convince a judge and/or jury that you have perpetrated fraud in the matter. All of that may lead to a very unfavorable result for you. For these reasons, it’s always better to be truthful and disclose your prior injuries and medical conditions to your lawyer up front at the beginning of the claim.
If you disclose your prior injuries or health conditions up front, then your lawyer likely will be able to deal with them. For example, your lawyer can demonstrate to the adjuster that you had recovered from your prior neck and back injuries and moved on with your life until you were re-injured, or that the second accident/incident exacerbated your injuries (if that truly is the case). That type of re-injury or exacerbation situation happens in claims and lawsuits all the time, and an effective personal injury lawyer will know how to handle it with the insurance company or defense lawyer. However, if your personal injury lawyer discovers from your medical records that you’ve failed to disclose your prior medical issues—or worse—your lawyer hears about it for the first time from the insurance adjuster or defense lawyer… Well, that won’t be a happy day for your lawyer. If insurance adjusters feel they are being defrauded, they will often dig their heels in and offer very little money, or even refuse to settle a claim. If your case is actually in a lawsuit, then the lawyer defending your claim may file a motion seeking penalties against you in your case for committing fraud.
If you do the right thing and disclose your complete medical history up front, you won’t find yourself in any of the distressing situations referenced above. Palm Beach County accident and injury lawyer, Andrea McMillan, is experienced at handling your pre-existing injuries in the context of your claim or lawsuit. If you have been injured because of someone’s negligence, contact Law Offices of Andrea D. McMillan, P.A. today.
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