Your Mom and your Scoutmaster both got it right. Some of the best advice any lawyer can give a client in a personal injury case is to tell the truth.
At Holland & Usry, one of the first things we do when we are evaluating a personal injury case is to judge the credibility of the claim. Most people, most of the time, come to our office with legitimate injuries and need legitimate help. As a whole, it has been my observation that most people try to tell the truth. But even honest people, not intending to lie, sometimes find themselves hurting their case when they stray from the truth.
I am not talking about the person who is injured playing basketball and outright lies to say the injury occurred at work in order to make a workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, there really are people who try to defraud the system for their gain. These people represent a small minority who make it more difficult for honest people to recover.
What I am talking about are the honest folks who either undersell or oversell their injuries.
What You Say About Your Injuries Says a Lot About You
We’ve all met the type of person who undersells his injuries. This is the person who doesn’t like to complain. This is the person who doesn’t want to acknowledge he has been injured. There are injured people suffering from a great deal of pain, but because they don’t wish to complain they don’t accurately describe their injuries.
We tell clients to be totally forthright with their doctors as to the problems they are having. Do not worry if you come off as “a wimp.” If the doctor doesn’t know what is wrong with you, he can’t help you and he can’t diagnose you properly. Further, it is important that we know what is bothering you so we can explain it to the insurance carrier—or to the judge and jury, if necessary.
It is also important the same thing you tell your doctor is the same thing you tell your lawyer and is the same thing you tell in depositions and at trial. If you are telling the absolute truth all along, all these things will match up, lending credibility to you and to your claim.
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Embellishing the Truth is Also Harmful
Now, for the person who oversells his injuries: This person is not necessarily trying to lie, but he is hurting and is scared, and he wants to make sure he gets attention and care. These people exaggerate or embellish their injuries when describing them. They are afraid people will not believe them unless they explain HOW INJURED they are. The trouble comes when the description doesn’t match up across the board with other independent evidence, such as medical records or eyewitness observations of the injured person.
These people have legitimate injuries and they suffer legitimate pain, but by trying to oversell the damage done they may call into question their credibility. Once they are caught in an exaggeration, it becomes less likely they will be believed even about legitimate complaints. And once this occurs, who is to say whether or not the person is even really injured?
Honesty Is the Essential Policy
That is why from day one we encourage you to tell the truth.
- Tell the truth to your doctor. If it hurts, tell her where and how. Describe it in detail and be specific. Be equally honest with the doctor about whether treatment works, or risk destroying your case.
- When talking to your lawyer, be specific. If you don’t know something, say so. A truthful answer is “I don’t know.” Don’t answer how you think or hope something may be, because if you turn out to be wrong, it may be used to suggest that you are not credible.
- If you have been injured before, say so. If you deny a previous injury—maybe because you think that is has nothing to do with your current injury and will only cloud the water—and the other side learns you lied (they almost always do), it hurts your case.
In the end, you should tell the truth not just because it helps your case, but because it is the right thing to do.
Good lawyers prepare you to truthfully and consistently explain yourself.
If you have been injured and need the assistance of an attorney, we urge you to contact the lawyers at Holland & Usry by calling toll-free at 888.230.1841 for a free, confidential consultation. We’ll also tell you the truth about whether you have a valid claim and what we can do to help you recover from your losses.