By Attorney William Abel
Special to THELAW.TV
So you were injured in an accident and decided to bring a personal injury claim against the negligent party. You have been suffering since your accident and you want to be compensated for your pain and discomfort. Isn't that enough to win your lawsuit? No, that is not enough. As I tell my clients, "it is not what you know, it is what you can prove." You may know that you are hurting, but can you prove it? Here are the top five things you must do in order to prove that you are injured.
1. Get Medical Treatment. The truth of the matter is that you may have pain and discomfort after an accident, but if you don't get medical treatment, then it is easy for the defendant to paint the picture that you are not hurt. Jurors don't like to hear that you "are not a complainer" to justify why you didn't get medical treatment. You are person, not a superhero, people get medical treatment when they are hurt. Get treatment at the time of the accident and regularly follow-up with your doctors. End of story.
2. Be Consistent With Your Medical History. When filling out your medical paper work or speaking with your doctor/nurse, communicate your symptoms. Not just your symptoms you are having that very moment, but your symptoms since the accident. If a body part is painful or numb or feels different since the accident, make sure to indicate that in the medical paper work and when you speak with your doctors. These complaints should be consistent from one doctor to the next. Even if you are seeing a doctor for a medical condition unrelated to your injury, you must disclose your injury in that doctor. Make sure to document your symptoms in both in the intake paper work and directly to the doctor/nurse.
3. Be Descriptive With Your Symptoms. When communicating your symptoms to your medical provider, specifically identify the type of pain you are experiencing. Different types of symptoms indicate different types of injuries. Don't write that you have "pain." Describe the pain. There is a difference between dull, achy pain and sharp pain with numbness and tingling. How you describe your symptoms, pain and injuries assists the doctor in making his diagnosis. Again the way you describe your symptoms should be consistent with all of your medical providers.
4. Be Accurate About Your Medical History. If you have had medical treatment to your low back before an accident and then suffered a new back injury from an accident, it is extremely important that you tell all of your doctor about your prior low back symptoms and treatment. The law allows you to bring a claim if an accident worsened (aggravated) a pre-existing medical condition, but juries look harshly upon people who are not truthful. You can still have a legal claim even if you have had prior treatment for the same body part, but a jury will turn you away if you don't disclose that prior/relevant medical treatment. There is no-one who knows your medical history better than you do. You lived it. As a result, a jury will not believe that you "forgot" your prior injury/condition if you failed to disclose it to the doctors treating you after an accident.
5. Communicate With Your Attorney. Whenever you plan on seeing a new medical doctor or getting new tests or radiological studies, let your attorney know. Your attorney is there to help guide you through the process, but they cannot do that if you do not keep them informed. Additionally, if you decide to apply for disability benefits or for government assistance, it is critical that your attorney be part of that process. In your effort to seek assistance, you may be jeopardizing your lawsuit. Keep your attorney in the loop.
The author, William Abel, is a West Palm Beach, Florida personal injury attorney with McLaughlin & Stern.