How to Talk About Prior Injuries and “Problems” After You’ve Been Injured at Work

Jul 13, 2020 | Employment Concerns

One trap for unaware injured workers is when doctors, adjusters, or lawyers ask about prior injuries or prior medical history.

Prior Injuries – Often, we see well-meaning and honest clients deny having prior medical “problems” only to find medical records documenting pain complaints before the work injury. We help guide clients to understand how to truthfully present their past medical history.

You aren’t a liar, but what happens if insurance companies think you are?

Let’s say you have a lower back injury and you file a workers comp claim. The insurance company and the doctors and the adjusters are going to ask you, “Have you ever had back problems, back issues? Have you ever had back pain? Have you ever received treatment for your back? Have you had any kind of injuries not just for your back but any kind of injuries?” They are asking about any kind of treatment. It could be chiropractic, it could be massage therapy, it doesn’t necessarily just have to be with a specific doctor and been treated.

The problem in this situation is if I have a client who says, “No, I’ve never had a lower back injury,” and then we get a picture or a medical record that shows that you have, guess what happens next? The insurance company, the insurance company’s lawyers, maybe even the doctors are going to say, “He’s a liar.” They will not assume you got confused or misinterpreted the questions, they will see it as intentional lying.

Some clients get frustrated and upset because they think, “Well, do you think I’m a liar or something?” But here’s the reality, most of our clients have worked in hard physical jobs their whole life and if we’re dealing with somebody who’s 50 years old and they’ve done construction their whole life and they answer “No” when we ask them if they’ve ever had back pain, that’s hard to believe. Think about this, maybe you’ve never had a surgery, maybe you were never hospitalized, maybe you never even talked with the doctor about it, but you still had the pain and that is what everyone will be looking at.

You have to ask the right questions before you talk about your prior injuries and “problems”

One of the biggest issues in this situation is that our clients are not asking for specification. Some of our clients don’t know what defines a problem. Does a problem mean you lost a job because of a back injury? Does it mean that you had to have surgery, or had a knife sticking in your back? What exactly does “problem” mean? If you are asked, “Have you had any problems with a specific part of your body?” You need to say, “What do you mean by problems?” It’s okay to ask for clarification and say, “I need you to give me more information or ask this question differently because I’m not understanding it, so I can’t answer.”

I want you to understand that if you’re injured on the job and you’re asked questions about prior medical history, it’s a loaded question and it is important that you are able to answer that question truthfully.

Be prepared to answer questions about prior “issues” or “problems.”

I don’t want you or any injured worker to get confused about the definitions of problems and issues. Or if they ask about any problems and you think, “They must be talking about work injury problems.” Everyone is very literal and the problem is that if you answer something wrong because you’re confused, they’re going to call you a liar. That’s why when we help our clients answer interrogatories we ask these questions in five different ways till Sunday in order to make sure that the answer you give is not one that you will regret having made. These questions will be asked often by doctors and other professionals and they might try to trap you if you aren’t prepared.

You have to be aware of how you answer so it doesn’t affect your case in the future.

We can help you avoid the confusion and traps when talking about prior injuries and “problems”

We’ve been helping injured workers in Colorado since 1995, it’s what we do. Our consultations are free and have no obligation. If you or someone you love has been injured in Colorado on the job tell them that there’s a worker compensation attorney who will be happy to talk with them. Give us a call at 970-356-9898.

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