Avoid Perjury and “Always tell the truth!” (Life lesson taken from mothers everywhere!)
“Always tell the truth” – a phrase which parents are blue in the face telling their children. If it hasn’t stuck yet, then read on to why out why telling the truth is so important.
When a personal injury claim comes before the court, the claimant or plaintiff will be asked to swear to the court before giving his or her evidence that he or she will “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, much like in the movies. This means that the evidence a claimant is giving is true and reflects the facts. In cases where a person knowingly lies in court when under oath they are said to have committed perjury.
However, the duty, to tell the truth, doesn’t just come into play in the courtroom. Throughout the lifecycle of a personal injuries file, there is the duty on a claimant to be open and truthful. They must cooperate about the facts of the incident itself, the nature of the injuries. This is in addition to any ancillary matters such as, but not limited to, his or her ability to work. The duty exists from the moment the file is opened. However, there will be a number of occasions during the file where the claimant will be reminded of this duty.
Be Honest About Your Medical History
When requested to attend a medical appointment to assess the injuries sustained in the accident, be it an appointment arranged by the claimant’s own legal team or the defendant’s legal team, the onus is on the claimant, to be honest, and answer any questions a medical professional has in respect of the accident, the injuries sustained, the treatment received or the medication prescribed.
This would include disclosing any pre-existing medical conditions, previous accidents and your medical history. If a claimant is unsure as to whether something is relevant or not, they should err on the side of disclosure so as to ensure that the integrity of their evidence is not called into question at a later stage.
At the hearing stage, the defendant’s legal team will be entitled to obtain your previous medical records. This is along with employment history (if relevant) and other documentation close to the date of the accident. If a claimant has not disclosed a previous medical issue, it will come out in the wash eventually!
It is irrelevant that such an issue was immaterial to the claim at hand. It merely puts a cloud over the reliability of the evidence that the claimant puts forward.
Previous medical conditions or accidents (whether or not the claimant made a claim, or received any compensation) should be disclosed to the solicitor engaged on the claimant’s behalf, the Injuries Board on the application form and the doctors who assess the injuries. It will again be asked for in Notice for Particulars. This is a request for further information which the defendant is statutorily entitled to receive.
Not Being Truthful in a Personal Injury Claim * Does Have its Consequences
The claimant will be asked to confirm the truthfulness of their replies to Notice for Particulars. This is done by swearing an Affidavit of Verification. These are designed to combat false, dishonest and fraudulent claims. It requires the claimant to confirm that the information contained in the pleadings are true and accurate to the best of the claimant’s knowledge and belief. An affidavit is essentially a confirmation of evidence that the claimant would otherwise give in court. It should be taken as seriously as the oath, to tell the truth, taken before one commences the giver of oral evidence before a courtroom.
Consequences of Perjury
If a claimant gives false evidence or misleads the court or an officer of the court, i.e. a solicitor, as to the true facts of the matter, the court is free to dismiss the action if the judge thinks it is appropriate. There are also penalties for giving such false evidence which includes a monetary fine or a lengthy prison service.
Bear in mind also that there is nothing to prevent a defendant’s legal team from engaging a private investigator to track a claimant. This is to ensure that the claimant is not doing anything which they allegedly cannot. For example, working or engaging in sports activities…
So, the moral of the story is, in all cases, you should listen to your parents and your solicitor when they tell you to “always tell the truth!”