Although we handle most types of injury and death cases, it is usually a serious car wreck that brings a new client to our doorstep. Some of these new clients have already spoken with another Raleigh injury lawyer only to have their case turned down because of a pre-existing similar injury. They have found (usually during a short phone call) that as soon as the words “pre-existing injury” are mentioned, the conversion is pretty much over.
At Maurer Law, we meet each new prospective client in person and conduct a thorough intake interview. When we hear the words “pre-existing injury”, we do not shy away, we dive in. We often find that if we carefully listen to the client and ask the right questions, we might just be able to take a case that appeared unwinnable and discover that it is a diamond in the rough, if you will. It goes without saying that we cannot do much for a client unless they are open and honest about any pre-existing conditions they may have.
In a case involving a pre-existing condition (usually a prior similar injury or degenerative condition… bad back, bad knee, etc.), the challenge for an attorney is to convince an insurance adjuster that the new accident either made it worse or reactivated the problem which had been symptom free for a while. Adjusters are skeptical by nature, as are insurance defense attorneys. I can say that because I used to be one and worked with adjusters every day for years. One of their favorite arguments is that “the wreck didn’t cause your client any problem he didn’t already have.”
Defense attorneys will often go on a “seek and destroy mission.” Quite simply, they will seek evidence of UNDISCLOSED pre-existing conditions (usually found in old primary care doctor records) and when they find them, they will use it to destroy a plaintiff’s case. It is a remarkably simple strategy, and a very successful one because the plaintiff’s credibility will be dealt an often fatal blow upon such a discovery.
What a Raleigh Injury Lawyer Should Explain to Clients About Pre-Existing Injuries
I often tell new clients that the only pre-existing condition that will hurt the case 100% of the time is the one that they do not tell us about. Believe me, it will eventually be discovered, especially if the case ends up with having a lawsuit filed. If we know about the issue, we can usually deal with it. The key for us is to show how there is a real difference in the client’s condition before and after the accident. This is often difficult to show with just the client saying so but there is no evidence to prove it. The only real way to show a difference is to compare the medical records before the accident with the medical records after the accident.
We have had at least 10 cases in the last year where clients were completely honest about prior injuries or degenerative conditions. In all of these cases, the clients required medical treatment within even just a year (or in some cases just a few months) of the new accident. Impossible to prove a case, right?
These cases all had the same basic scenario:
- prior injury or degenerative condition,
- medical treatment received for the condition: injections, therapy, etc,
- full recovery from the condition for a period of time without any complaints or treatment (obviously, the longer the better)
- A new injury occurred in an accident
- They are re-injured, now more seriously, often requiring surgery.
We were able to get in front of the obvious issue and present the cases to the insurance company in a way that convinced them that our client’s case really did have merit. I have always believed that the way we present our client’s story is a huge factor in the ultimate success with the case. Once again, it is important that clients “help us help them” by not being afraid to tell us anything, even where they might perceive that it would hurt their case.
Attorney Mike Maurer is a Raleigh injury lawyer who handles all types of injury and accident cases. Mike is a National Board of Trial Advocacy board certified civil trial advocate who previously worked for insurance companies defending personal injury claims. If you would like a free consultation, give the lawyers at Maurer Law a call today at 919-229-8359.