Why Plaintiffs Need to Disclose Past Injuries to Doctors

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The recent District Court of Queensland case of Clapham v Butler & Anor [2016] QDC 268 illustrates that the court will take into account a plaintiff’s past injuries in determining damages for motor vehicle accidents and personal injury claims. Further, the case highlights that plaintiffs must disclose these past injuries during medical examinations for their personal injuries.

Facts

In this case the 65 year old plaintiff, Mr Donald Ian Clapham, attempted to claim damages for injuries to his knee following a minor car accident on 27 November 2013. Mr Clapham did not disclose to doctors that six months prior to the accident, he had fallen from a ladder and landed on his knee. As a result his knee was symptomatic at least six months before the collision.

Mr Clapham also claimed damages for injuries sustained to his neck and wrist.

The Decision

His Honour Justice Andrews found that Mr Clapham deliberately denied telling doctors about his past injury. His Honour held that this omission was to blame for medical opinions being given “based on a false premise”. As such, both doctors retracted or revised their reports. Despite medical assessment initially finding that Mr Clapham would require a knee replacement in the following four years, his Honour held that this was not due to the accident but rather the “degenerative condition of the knee”.

Mr Clapham was found to have sustained injuries to his neck and wrist and was awarded damages in the amount of $18, 750.00. His Honour rejected, however, any claims with respect to Mr Clapham’s knee.

His Honour also rejected that any economic loss resulted or would flow from the collision. Rather, any disabilities which would cause Mr Clapham to require the assistance of others at work were the result of “disabilities related to degenerative change”.

Lessons

The case illustrates the necessity for personal injury or motor vehicle accident plaintiffs to honestly deal with medical experts during injury assessments. Failure to do so will most likely result in a court denying claims for damages.