No one wants to file a personal injury claim only to become embroiled in an endless tangle of paperwork, negotiations, and fighting. Before you file a claim, though, you need to know that previous cases can affect both the outcome of your personal injury suit and how long it takes to resolve.
When Previous Claims Don’t Matter
If you’ve been in trouble with the law or struggled to pay your debts before, it’s understandable that involving yourself in the justice system via a personal injury case might be scary. You have an absolute right to file a claim no matter what’s happened in your life before your injury. Moreover, no one can take what you win in the case without filing paperwork to do it, so don’t let debt scare you away from seeking just compensation for injuries.
Ways Previous Claims Affect Personal Injury Claims
Few personal injury claims ever end up in front of a jury, but when they do, the other side might use previous claims to sway the jury and try to make you look bad. The other side might, for example, argue that you regularly file frivolous claims or that you’re only interested in a payday.
Sometimes the other side may also use information gained in a previous case – such as a history of mental illness or troubled relationships – to try to make you look bad. This is an emotional ploy, though, not a legal one, and many judges will stop this from happening before it starts.
Previous cases will, however, affect your personal injury claim if your old one arose from an injury. Personal injury claims only compensate you for the injuries you sustained in the incident that gave rise to the claim – not all injuries you’ve ever experienced.
So, for example, if you were in a car accident 10 years ago and sustained a whiplash injury, this could become relevant if you sustain another whiplash injury in a new accident. The other side is only obligated to cover the costs of the current whiplash injury, not the old one. And if you lie about old injuries or pre-existing medical conditions, it could severely undermine your suit.
On the other hand, a prior injury could significantly strengthen your current case if the medical records from the old case indicate that your injuries must be new. Few things are more persuasive than before-and-after internal images proving the existence of a new injury or a serious worsening of an old one.
These risks are why it’s so important to be honest with your attorney when you file a claim. Likewise, you should avoid giving the other side information that can be used against you without first talking to a lawyer. A good lawyer can help devise a strategy that will minimize the effects of previous claims and maximize your ability to get just compensation for current injuries.
If you have any questions at all about whether you might have a personal injury case, contact the experienced attorneys at McDivitt Law Firm. Your first consultation is free, and you will not owe any legal fees until we collect money for you.