Interviewer: If you are cited at the scene of an accident, does that ruin your ability to receive money for your injuries?
Guy DiMartino: Crash reports and being cited at the scene of the accident may not really mean anything in a car accident claim. Some police officers are lazy and they don't really investigate the claim. You can't use a citation or a traffic ticket if the officer decides to give a traffic ticket in a civil case. So, we look at that when we initially evaluate a case but that is not determinative. I can tell you that I've had 50 to 75 cases in my career where my client received the ticket or was determined to be at fault on the police report, and we've gotten them great compensation because we dug into the facts behind the actual accident and learned that the crash report was inaccurate.
The Injuries and Causation Determine the Overall Value of a Personal Injury Case
So, now, the second part of the stool has to do with the injuries. What's the nature and extent of the person's injuries? It's a personal injury claim and that's why I think that I bring something to the table that a lot of other lawyers don't because these cases are all about the injuries and the long term consequences related to the injuries. So, the amount of medical care, the types of treatment and how much treatment the injured person is going to need in the future determines the value of an Indiana personal injury case.
The third leg of the stool is something called causation. It's the bridge between the negligence or the facts of the accident and the injuries or damages, you see, the accident itself has to be the cause of your injuries. In some states and in some areas of the country and with some insurance companies, that becomes the biggest battle ground in the case, whether it was a preexisting condition, whether it was an accident that you had 3 or 5 years ago or whether it was what transpired on the day of this accident that caused the actual injuries.
Insurance Companies Are Able to Scrape Medical Records and Data for Clients Going Back 25 to 30 Years
Nowadays with the electronic medical records that are floating around all over the country, these insurance companies are able to scrape medical records and data that are in databases for clients going back 25 and 30 years. When you're looking at this causation issue, it's all about the client's credibility. So, the way that they trip up the client is they ask questions like, “Have you ever been to a doctor, a physical therapist, a chiropractor or a massage therapist or any other healthcare provider and ever complained of neck pain?” The client doesn't remember that 15 or 17 years ago, they went ahead and they actually saw a massage therapist because they woke up with a stiff neck. They'll say, “No, no, no”. The insurance companies actually find this information or scrape this data and they use that as a point to undermine the credibility of the client and support their position that the accident did not cause all of the injury. These cases now, especially the lower damage or the lower injury or the smaller injury cases, not that somebody's injury is not as important but these cases sort of defend themselves if the client is not upfront with their doctors and their lawyer.
Concealing or Forgetting Information May Result in Damage to the Credibility of the Claimant
Interviewer: Is that really a hit to someone's credibility if 10 years ago, they went to a massage therapist for their hurt back?
Guy DiMartino: It's a hit to their credibility if they kept on saying in their deposition or in a sworn statement to the insurance company, “No, no”. Because the public has been so framed or so brainwashed generally with all the TV and all the shows like Andy Griffith with the person coming into the courtroom with the neck brace on and then, when they leave the court, they're going to take the neck brace off, thinking that somebody always want something for nothing. These car accident claims become credibility contests. What I tell my clients is, “Look, you are a block of ice. My job is to protect you and make sure that the block of ice isn't chipped away too much in front of the jury or the insurance company”. The defense lawyer's job is to chip away at you as much as possible. So, it's not the one thing about having a back problem 10 years before, it's that and maybe another 4 or 5 or 6 or 8 or 10 other inconsistencies that folks end up forgetting about. Thus, it becomes a credibility contest.