Photo by Jose Perez | Splash News
The first meeting with a client is very important. It is a time to build trust, to create meaningful relationships and to set reasonable expectations. At Glassman & Zissimopulos Law, we use the initial intake meeting with our clients to collect important information about the client, their history, and their legal issues.
For the clients of Glassman & Zissimopulos Law who have been injured in car accidents, a routine issue that comes up at the initial meeting is whether the client has ever been injured before in another auto crash or from some other type of injury.
The other day, while watching the movie John Wick II, my mind began to wander with thoughts about how difficult it would be to accurately keep a “prior injury” history for Mr. Wick. This movie is about a nearly superhuman former mobster (played by Keanu Reeves) who is being hunted down by an army of angry thugs. Mr. Wick is punched, kicked, stabbed, and even hit by several cars – all within the first 30 minutes of the movie.
Hopefully, these types of shenanigans are not happening in Gainesville, Florida. Nonetheless, the advice to Mr. Wick would be the same that we routinely give to our clients – tell us everything and do not leave anything out from your story. Glassman & Zissimopulos Law can only help our clients if we know the absolute truth about your prior injuries.
The hesitation about disclosing prior injuries is often centered around a mistaken belief that if you have had prior injuries that you cannot be compensated for your harms and losses that you have suffered in your current car crash. That is not accurate. In fact, Florida law allows an injured person to recover for an “aggravation” of a prior medical condition. Specifically, the standard jury instruction on this concept as it relates to motor vehicle crashes reads in part:
[501.5(a)] If you find that the DEFENDANT caused a bodily injury, and that the injury resulted in an aggravation of an existing disease or physical defect, you should attempt to determine what portion of PLAINTIFF’s condition resulted from the aggravation. If you can make that determination, then you should award only those damages resulting from the aggravation. However, if you cannot make that determination, or if it cannot be said that the condition would have existed apart from the injury, then you should award damages for the entire condition suffered by PLAINTIFF.
In other words, the person who caused your auto accident crash and caused you to suffer an aggravation of your pre-existing injury will be responsible for all of the harms that you suffered, unless some evidence can really establish the portion of your injury caused by this crash and that portion caused by a pre-existing condition. Even most doctors who make their living testifying for big insurance companies against claims involving car crashes will concede that it is very difficult to truly distinguish what proportion of an injury that was pre-existing from those portions caused by the crash. That means that you will be in a good position to be able to recover fully for your harms and losses.
On the other hand, dishonesty about a prior injury can be a case killer. If it comes to light that a client has not disclosed a prior injury, the effect of hiding or concealing information about these types of prior injuries can be devastating. Insurance defense lawyers will label these as lies and will argue to a jury that it should not believe anything the plaintiff says.
The bottom line is that honesty in the best policy and if your lawyer asks you a question during a private consultation, tell him or her the truth. As long as it is dealing with past conduct, the client and lawyer enjoy confidentiality through client-lawyer privilege as more fully explained in Florida Statute 90.502.
Going through a complete medical and injury history does take more time, but it is time well spent if the goal is to put clients first and do excellent work for the client. If John Wick is ever injured because of the negligence of another person, the lawyers at Glassman & Zissimopulos Law will be there for him – we’ll just make sure to put a few days aside to get a full accounting of all of his prior injuries!