There is an ancient Latin phrase, “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” that means “False in one thing, false in everything.” This is also a legal principle that means a witness who testifies falsely about one matter is not at all credible to testify about any other matter. If you pursue a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim, you should adhere to this doctrine because, make no mistake about it, if the Workers’ Compensation Judge deciding your case believes that you are lying about one aspect of your case, the Judge well may find that you are lying about everything and rule against you.
We’re going to run through a list of issues in your workers’ comp. claim in which your failure to provide truthful testimony to the Judge could hurt you, sometimes significantly. We’ll tell you the ways in which insurance companies can establish that you have given false testimony and the potential consequences in your case. We’ll list them from least damaging to your case to most damaging.
Length of Employment – You will likely be asked how long you were working for your employer at the time you injured yourself. You may not remember exactly when you started with your employer or how long you had been there when your injury occurred, but you want to be as accurate as possible. If you testify that you had been an employee for six years when it was really five, this is such a minor discrepancy, it will not matter when the Judge assesses your credibility. But if you testify that you were employed for two years and the opposing lawyer produces payroll records showing that you started only five months before your injury, the Judge may wonder – if you were not candid when asked a simple question pertaining to your employment history, should I believe anything else you say?
Amount of Medical Treatment – In your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, you of course want the Judge to find that the injuries you sustained at work have prevented you from doing your job. Some injured workers make the mistake of exaggerating the amount of medical treatment they have received for their injuries, believing that the more treatment they have undergone, the more likely the Judge will rule in their favor. This can backfire if it’s not the truth. For example, they may state they have been treating with their pain management doctor once a month when in fact it is once every three months and that they have gotten physical therapy three times a week when in reality it is only once weekly. During the litigation of your case, the insurance company lawyer will be able to obtain the records from your doctors and physical therapy facility and will use any discrepancies to attack your credibility. It is in your best interest to testify truthfully when asked about all facets of your treatment.
Prior Workers’ Compensation Claims—This may be your first workers’ comp. claim – or it may be your fourth. It doesn’t much matter because you’re entitled to workers’ comp. benefits if you injure yourself in the course of your employment regardless of how many claims you have had. However, there have been injured workers who were concerned about admitting they have had several prior workers’ comp. claims because they may be viewed by the Judge as a “player” — someone who frequently files workers’ comp. claims – that they denied having any previous claims. Keep in mind that it’s much worse for you if you deny filing previous workers’ comp. claims, and then the insurance company lawyer obtains documents from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation – which are easily obtained – establishing that you have had many other claims. Your credibility will take a big hit.
Prior Injuries and Accidents – This is similar to the issue before but there are differences. If you sustained injuries in the past to the same body part or parts that you injured in your current claim – whether these injuries happened at work or not – it is important that you acknowledge these prior injuries when you testify. For example, let’s say you injured your back at work lifting a heavy box. When you testify, you deny ever injuring your back or receiving any treatment to your back. In fact, you were rear-ended in a car accident two years earlier as a result of which you received treatment for nine months, including therapy, injections, and medication. You don’t mention the accident, fearing that it will weaken your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case if the Judge becomes aware that you had a prior back injury. Believe us, the Judge will view you in a much more favorable light if you admit to the car accident and treatment that followed but emphasize that you recovered completely or mostly from that injury and have been able to perform your job for more than a year since. If you deny the accident and treatment, and the insurance company lawyer tracks down the records contradicting your testimony, your credibility before the Judge will be in serious jeopardy.
Working for Another Employer – This can really be the death knell for you if you’re not up front. It’s understandable if you get injured at work and your workers’ comp. claim is denied, leaving you with no source of income, that you feel the need to go out and find a job, even part-time, to bring in some money. If you take this step, though, it’s imperative that you promptly inform your lawyer, who then has an obligation to report your employment to the insurance company lawyer. Sure, this will result in a reduction in the amount of workers’ comp. benefits to which you are entitled, but it beats the alternative. Imagine this scenario: You’re asked at your deposition whether you have worked since injuring yourself, and you say you have not because your injuries prevent you from working. The insurance company lawyer later obtains documentation showing that a month before your deposition, you started a job for a local company and have continued doing that job. The lawyer then confronts you with this documentation at the hearing before the Judge. Trust us, your case is doomed if that happens.
Honesty will serve you well in your workers’ comp. case. You do not want the Judge to apply the Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus maxim and reject your credibility entirely. If you are unfortunate enough to injure yourself at work, we urge you to contact Pearson Koutcher Law. We are Pennsylvania workers’ compensation experts; it’s all we do. One of our experienced lawyers will zealously represent you and fight the insurance company hard. Please call us for a free consultation.