In criminal proceedings, you have the right to remain silent.
There is no such right in civil cases, such as if you bring a lawsuit to gain compensation for an injury. In fact, there is a special kind of hearing, called an examination for discovery, that has the specific purpose of requiring you to answer questions posed by the insurance company’s lawyer.
Not only that, but confidential conversations you have had with your medical team, including your doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor and psychologist, are no longer confidential. Private discussions you have had with your buddy, your sister, or your girlfriend, are also fair game. At some point, the insurance company will likely require you to be examined by a medical specialist of its choosing, and you will be required to answer questions posed during that examination as well.
I spend a good part of my time as a personal injury lawyer coaching my clients about how to deal with these invasions of their privacy. I give very detailed advice about how to respond to questions at an examination for discovery, at a defence medical exam, how to communicate with your medical team, and with your friends and family.
It has taken the 15 years I’ve practiced in personal injury matters to fine tune that coaching. It is part of the very confidential legal advice that I give my clients and which they never, ever have to disclose.
I’m going to share my secrets with you. It’s all very sneaky. Only the most experienced and successful personal injury lawyers know the most effective techniques. What do you do, for example, if you are asked about something that’s bound to make you look bad?
Let’s say you are asked about your income. What if some of that income was earned “under the table?”
What if you are asked about having ever taken illicit drugs and there was that time during your youth when you did some experimentation?
What if you are being questioned by an insurance company doctor about pre-crash injuries, and your mind goes to that back strain you sustained a year before the crash when you were building a cinder block retaining wall?
Do you carefully disclose information that is only helpful to your claim and keep the unhelpful information secret? Do you rehearse ways to answer particular types of questions? Is there a list of rules that you need to think about any time you are asked about the crash, the injuries you sustained and how those injuries are impacting on you?
I told you that I would share my secrets and I will. Yes, there is a list of rules, though it is a very small list.
My emphatic advice to every one of my clients, is to refresh their memory so that they have the facts clear in your mind, and then tell the truth. It’s that simple. And there are no exceptions.
You want to play games? You want to weave a web of lies to maximize your claim?
Good luck finding a serious personal injury lawyer who wants you as a client.
Yes, I take my role as an officer of the court very seriously. I will not allow false or misleading evidence to be put before the court.
Beyond that, though, it’s the only way to achieve what I consider justice.
Our civil justice system is very good at rooting out dishonesty, and dishonesty will destroy a personal injury claim.
Pain is not something you can measure with a ruler or a thermometer. The only reason anyone knows you are in pain is because you tell them.
Your credibility is everything. Ruin that and you ruin your case.
A little work “under the table,” a misspent youth and a prior injury can all be understood and worked with. Lie about those things, though and you’re hooped.
So please share my advice with anyone you know who has been injured in a crash. So often, a fear of insurance company tactics and unfairness will lead honest people to try to keep some information secret so that it will not be twisted and turned unfairly against them.
It’s a healthy fear, but I want you to have confidence that your lawyer will be able to handle all the warts of your case, provided you maintain your credibility.
I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.
Published December 19, 2010 in the Kelowna Capital News