Here are the six steps a personal injury lawyer will typically take when handling a complicated prior medical history:
1. Talk to your client. Ask questions. Prepare your client.
Begin with obtaining a detailed medical history directly from your client. Review the history thoroughly and compose a rough chronology of medical events. Ask your client about the doctors he has seen, the hospitals he has been to, his previous health conditions, and any treatments he has received in the past. Ask about any surgeries or traumatic events he has experienced, as well as any broken bones, stitches, or falls. This is also a good time to ask your client about his normal lifestyle, including hobbies, sports, activities and any physical or mental limitations he has suffered in the past. Let your client know that it’s okay if he doesn’t remember everything, as nobody’s memory is perfect. Support your client and make him feel comfortable when asked about his medical history.
2. Obtain the prior records. Have the records organized and reviewed.
This is the stage where all relevant medical records should be collected. Obtain all medical records closest to the date of the accident and also those that span a few years back. If your client is suffering from injuries that are similar to injuries he suffered in the past, collect the records of those past injuries. It is also important to look at the client’s mental health history, especially if they are claiming a head or brain injury in this case. Make sure to get appropriate assistance if these records are illegible or confusing. After collecting all the records, make a chronology, along with a summary and notes.
3. Educate yourself on medicine generally.
After becoming familiar with your client’s previous medical conditions and injuries, educate yourself more on the nature of these conditions. Use medical sources of information, such as university libraries and online dictionaries and encyclopedias. Gather visual aids from these sources to illustrate your client’s conditions and experiences to the jury.
4. Research the law. Know elements of proof.
As your prepare to bring your case to court, think about what you will need to prove to the jury. First and foremost, think about whether your client’s injuries are new or if they are possibly the result of a previous accident. In some cases, current injuries may be pre-existing but amplified in the client’s recent accident. Consider whether your client’s previous medical conditions are irrelevant, and if so, file a motion to exclude any mention at trial of such prior conditions.
5. Meet with your client’s doctors. Prepare.
Before visiting your client’s doctors, be sure to review the medical records, do some medical research, obtain radiographic studies and find diagrams or drawings that illustrate your client’s injuries. Do extensive research on the doctor to see whether he is an appropriate expert in this case. Make sure to research the defense medical expert as well to compare the qualifications of both experts. Set aside at least an hour to speak with the doctor and use the entire time to get as much information and clarity as possible. When speaking with the doctors, make sure to explain to them the importance of providing factual-based information, not just “medical opinions.” Don’t leave until you have gained a clear understanding of the doctor’s notes and diagnoses on the medical records.
6. Compose your case. Characterize your facts.
After you have gathered all the information you need from your client, the medical records, your medical research and your client’s doctors, begin to consider which facts help your case and which ones hurt it. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each possible position you would like to take in court and prepare facts to back each position. Think about the facts your opponent will use in court and how you can counteract them with your own information. Remember, the facts are the most important.
If you have been injured in an accident and need legal assistance, please contact Parrish Law Firm, PLLC today. Call us at 703-906-4229.