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Pre-Existing Medical Conditions and Why We Need Your Pre-Accident Medical Records

One question I get all the time from clients is:  Why do you need all of my medical records before the accident?  That’s a seemingly simple question with a not-so-simple answer.

One of the defense/insurance company’s favorite tactics is to try to prove that your injuries are not the result of the accident, but are instead the result of some injury or condition you have had in the past.  One of their even more beloved tactics is to try to catch you in a trap about your prior medical history.  An example will help explain.

Let’s suppose that ten years ago, you strained your backd doing some heavy work around the house, maybe lifting your lawnmower into the shed or your truck.  You went to the doctor, who gave you some minor treatment.  The problem resolved, and you thought nothing else about it.  Then, ten years later, a tractor-trailer runs a stop sign and hits your car broadside.  The wreck fractures your back, and after the wreck, you have serious back pain, which may or may not require surgery.  Regardless, the pain is significant enough to keep you out of work for a long time, or perhaps permanently.

One of the first questions you will receive during the discovery phase of your claim is whether you have been treated for any prior medical problems (not just back, but anything).  Given that your prior issue resolved, you may have forgotten about the strain you suffered when you picked up your lawn mower ten years go.  That’s understandable.  Few, if any of us, can remember all of our prior medical history, especially when it was not life-changing.  When you answer the question, let’s assume you forget, and you do not list your prior back “issue.”

The defendant now thinks it has you in a trap.  It believes it can prove that you misrepresented your prior medical history and that this will hurt your case.  Typical insurance company garbage.

To prevent this type of thing from occurring, we thoroughly investigate your prior medical history.  We meet with you to try to identify all of your prior healthcare providers and gather as much information about any “pre-existing conditions.”  That way, we can try to nip this defense in the bud.  This explains why we try to gather your medical records before the accident.  We simply do not want to give the defendant the opportunity to play this silly little game.

Of course, we rely on you, our client, to give us the best information you can.  No one is perfect and things will be forgotten.  We understand that, but we also have to emphasize the importance of getting all of the correct information, even if it is not relevant to your current claim.

The defense is always trying to confuse the judge or jury with “what ifs” or “maybes.”  By detailing your prior medical history and pre-existing conditions, we can avoid this confusion and prevent this tactic from being successful.  So, the next time that we, or any other lawyer representing you asks you to detail your prior medical history, remember that this is why, and remember that the information you give is important to a good outcome in your case.

Edwin Lamberth

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