This is probably going to sound like something of a rant – and I guess it is – but it is something that I think I need to have on this website so that I can direct future clients to it when we first begin our attorney-client relationship.
The case seemed simple enough. Our client was driving her car on a residential street in the Rosemont area of Orlando, driving her two grandchildren to an appointment. The road she was driving on was divided by a raised, grassy median. She noticed another vehicle coming at her in the opposite direction but really didn’t think too much about it because the other vehicle seemed to be proceeding safely. Without warning, the oncoming vehicle suddenly attempted to make a quick left turn in front of our client, causing a big crash. Our client went to the emergency room a couple of hours later complaining of neck and back pain. In all of her hospital documents, and in her doctor visits post-hospital, she always denied having neck and back pain in the past.
We thought our client had a pretty sound Florida personal injury case. We had clear liability against the negligent driver. We had a client who later had an MRI that showed herniated discs in her neck and back, and annular tears to several of her discs. Annular tears are fairly significant findings because they indicate a weakness on the disc’s surface, and can lead to leakage of disc material. Since our client said she had had no prior neck or back problems, we thought we had a good argument that the disc injuries were likely caused by this bad crash.
Unfortunately, on the eve of the client’s mediation settlement conference, we discovered documents generated by a physical therapy clinic that showed that our client had been treated there regularly for six weeks preceding our car accident. In fact, her last visit to the physical therapy clinic had been just three days before our accident.
Of course, information like this – undisclosed — is horrible in a personal injury case. Not only does it call into question the causal relationship between our client’s current problems and the accident, but much worse, it calls into question the credibility of our client who previously denied any neck or back problems before the accident.
When confronted with the information, our client said that she hadn’t lied. She said she didn’t really have any neck or back problem before the accident –even though she was regularly going to physical therapy. Her explanation was that she enjoyed getting massages and that she preferred to have her health insurance company pay for them. The only way she could get the health insurer to pay was to have her family doctor diagnose her with a neck and back problem (that she didn’t have).
Even if it was true that she didn’t have a neck and back problem before this crash, our client still essentially admitted committing insurance fraud – never a good idea.
Our client’s case settled for a fraction of what we thought she could get – and deservedly so. However, if our client had told us the truth, we could have gotten her a lot more money. We could have spent time carefully distinguishing her current problems from her past, very slight problems. But by our client withholding important information from us, we never got a chance to do that.
In my experience as an Orlando accident attorney, people who try to “get over” on the system almost always fail. These misplaced efforts almost always cost them money, and sometimes gets them in worse trouble.
If you are a person who is trying to decide whether you need to come clean and disclose information to your lawyer, call Orlando personal injury attorneys Kim Cullen & Bob Hemphill at 407-644-4444. They can help steer you in the right direction so that you don’t crash and burn.