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Want to know how to impress a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge? Know your previous medical history!
In virtually every case, an injured worker will be asked whether they had any previous injuries or treatment or symptoms to the body parts being alleged in the litigation at hand. Too often claimants will scratch their head, eyes rolling, trying to jog their memory. That doesn’t look very impressive to a Work Comp Judge.
How to remedy this? Prepare! Think about the issue ahead of time! Ask your attorney to review any medical records they have- especially any family doctor records. Ask your spouse or significant other to help you recall this information! Whatever you can do to sound more confident, and to actually know the previous history, will go a long way. I’ve been in three car accidents- but I could not tell you the year or month without major help from family members, or reviewing some documents. It’s not easy to know this type of thing off the top of your head.
Many injured workers don’t realize that injuries, even if they were fifteen years ago, matter. It matters for credibility purposes. Now, no one has a perfect memory. We see perfectly honest claimants forget some basic history- sometimes due to nerves, and other times just due to bad memories. An aggravation of a previous condition is still a work injury. But what some claimants do is convince themselves that no one will care about their mild back sprain ten years ago because they healed from it and this new injury is totally different. We will care! We will care because if you sweep it under the carpet, and it’s discovered later, you will be on your heels, playing defense- when you’re not a liar, but just told yourself that it wasn’t really relevant. Let the doctors determine what injuries caused what symptoms. Don’t hide anything. It’s so important. You could have injured your low back lifting weights at home 3 months ago, but made it worse by an incident at work- that’s still a work injury. You just have to show an exacerbation. So don’t get into a mindset where you decide what previous history you want to mention.
Don’t get caught in court or in a deposition with this question. Prepare ahead of time and do your best to recall prior injuries and treatment- make a list if you need to. Trust me, the attorney for your employer/insurer will have a field day trying to make you look like a liar if you don’t remember your previous history well. That can be quite effective too- depending on the style they use and the severity of what you failed to mention. They will likely get a hold of your family doctor records for the past ten years or so. So don’t play defense, play offense!