Richard S. Lundin
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Personal injury and family law attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia

What must you absolutely, positively tell your doctor after an accident?  Your past medical history.

At the initial visit, the doctor will take a medical history.  This includes your current injuries and how they happened (for example, you hit your knee against the dashboard, your neck was whiplashed or you hit your head on the headrest).  It also includes any past injuries, illnesses or accidents you’ve had involving the same areas of your body. This is called your “Past Medical History” or “PMH” and it’s a big deal to the insurance company.  They look very closely at what you told the doctor about your Past Medical History.

Why?  Because the insurance company will claim you didn’t tell the truth if you had any prior problems but didn’t tell your doctor about them.  And if they can make it seem like you didn’t tell the truth about your past medical history, then they will argue that you can’t be believed now about how much pain and suffering you’ve experienced.  Sadly, this is one of the most vicious and effective defenses the insurance company often pursues in a case — to make an injured person seem dishonest.  It literally adds insult to injury.

There is a simple solution to this:  tell the doctor (and your lawyer) about any past medical problems or accidents you’ve had involving the same areas of your body that were hurt in the accident.  If we know about a past condition, we can effectively work it into the narrative of your case to your advantage.  The problem arises when we’re ambushed with this kind of information by the insurance company.

You may question if every part of your Past Medical History is relevant.  The answer is, probably not.  For instance, conditions or injuries to other parts of your body or slight aches and pains that didn’t require medical care usually aren’t a concern to the insurance company, but you should mention them anyway.  Better to tell the doctor something that turns out later to be of little relevance to your case than to leave out important Past Medical History.  All of your Past Medical History helps the doctor care for you, and you don’t want to give the insurance company any ground to unfairly attack your credibility.

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