We all give advice. Whether you are a lawyer, teacher, parent, doctor, plumber, etc.., at some point, someone is going to ask for your advice. But here is the thing about the advice you seek: you do not know how good it is until you do the exact opposite.
Why do people not follow advice? Well, some folks do not really want advice. They want permission. They are only asking as a way of confirming what they wanted to do in the first place. The other main reason people do not follow advice is because it is not easy. Having the discipline to do what you know you should do can be hard i.e., exercising, saving for retirement, studying for exams, etc. So, we thought we would give you some important legal advice that is easy to follow and, trust us, you won’t know how good it is unless you don’t follow it.
Tell the truth. Of course, this admonition is one you have heard from your parents, pastors, teachers, etc. In litigation, failing to the tell the truth can mean the difference between winning and losing. If you fail to disclose something you should have, it will hurt your overall credibility as a witness. This can cause you to either lose your case entirely or for you to get less compensation than you truly deserve. Let us give you a few examples of how straying from the truth can hurt almost any case whether it is a car accident, dog bite, etc.
Let’s assume, you sustain a serious back injury in a car accident case and the issue is which driver had the right of way – you or the defendant (the person you are making the claim against). During the case, you are asked by the defendant’s lawyer if you have been arrested, and you deny that you have ever been arrested. You are also asked by the defendant’s lawyer if you have ever injured your back before, and you deny it.
But, the defendant’s lawyer has done her job and discovered that you were arrested 10 years ago for public intoxication after a Titans game. She also discovers that 6 years ago you had chiropractic treatment and injections to treat a lower back injury over the course of a couple months (but you have not had any treatment since then).
The existence of the arrest and the prior back injury are likely now admissible (when they likely would not have been or would have been easily explainable) solely because you did not tell the truth. The facts are now admissible because they are relevant to your credibility – your propensity for telling the truth. If the issue in the case is a “he said” v. “she said” and the defense lawyer has caught you in a lie or, even worse multiple lies, you increase the risk of losing the case. Indeed, some cases that should have been won are lost because the person bringing the case or the person who got sued did not tell the truth about a point that was not directly part of the case!
Now, let’s talk about how truthfulness impacts your compensation. After the accident, you go to a doctor. Three things can happen. You can minimize your injuries. You can exaggerate your injuries. Or, you can tell the truth. Believe it or not, some people minimize their injuries because they don’t want to look like they are complaining. Other folks will exaggerate their injuries in hopes that it will translate into more money from the insurance company or the jury. Yet again though, the defense lawyers are going to do their job. Depending upon the type of case, they may put you under surveillance. If you are telling the doctors that you can’t go to work because of your injuries but they obtain video of you on a jetski jumping over the wake or bowling, etc., this will again affect your credibility, increasing the risk that neither the defendant’s insurance company nor a jury will believe you when you testify about the nature and extent of your injuries. Of course, if you minimize your injuries to the doctor because you do not want to seem like a whiner, then the jury or insurance company are also less likely to believe you are seriously injured.
So, it is quite simple: if you are injured and make a claim, tell the truth – about everything. An experienced injury lawyer knows how to handle the truth – even if the truth “hurts” – but being getting caught in a lie will hurt your lawyer’s ability to advocate for you.
We spend a lot of time with our clients stressing the importance of giving accurate and truthful information during the claims resolution and litigation process. Indeed, sometimes simple mistakes can be made to look like a lie, and thus we work hard with our clients to help them avoid making even honest mistakes. Think about it: what person over 50 hasn’t had an occasional back ache. A 55 year-old person who hurt their back in a wreck and testifies “I have never had a back ache in my entire life “ may be telling the truth, but it is more likely that they simply don’t recall that on a Monday morning 30 years earlier they went to their doctor complaining about a sore back after a knee board incident at the lake the weekend before.
As always, we are here if you want to discuss your injury case with one of our award-winnning lawyers. The initial consultation for your injury case is always free and we handle all accident cases on a contingency basis which means we only get paid if we win.
 We came across this particular truism a few years ago. We don’t remember who said or wrote it, but we love it and would attribute it if we could.