A physician can make or break a personal injury case.
Therefore, before you pick your treating physician or even visit them, consider the role they play and how they can increase or decrease your chances for a fair settlement.
Having a doctor who can testify about your injuries and have accurate medical records is important. Every individual suffers injuries differently, and everyone heals at a different rate. You need a professional who can testify and put your injuries into perspective. Furthermore, you need someone to help justify the amount of compensation you request in a lawsuit and show the jury the extent of your suffering.
Your treatment and medical records associated with that treatment are pivotal in your accident case. They establish a correlation between the incident and your injuries.
Your physician has more credibility than a hired doctor to testify. This is because hired witnesses are typically perceived as being incentivized by money to say what your attorney wants them to say. Your treating physician holds no stake, because they are not being paid to testify about your injuries.
It is imperative that you seek medical treatment immediately after the accident. If you do not, it will be harder for the jury to link the accident to the injuries you claim. In most cases, attorneys will agree that after a maximum of 72 hours, your case is no longer viable. However, you should see a doctor as soon as possible – preferably within hours of the incident.
When you wait to seek medical treatment, you are destroying your credibility. Even if you have legitimate injuries that stem from the accident, the more time that passes, the more opportunities the defense has to say you are suffering pre-existing injuries or that you are exaggerating or outright lying about your injuries.
The only way to protect yourself from arguments against the legitimacy of those injuries is to create the link by seeing a doctor immediately. You can visit the emergency room first and let them know you were in an accident. Afterward, you can follow up with your family physician. By doing so, you have created a solid record and given the defense fewer opportunities to deny that your injuries exist.
After your initial treatment, you must follow up with your doctor’s treatments, check-ups, and instructions.
You may be required to go through rehabilitation, require surgery, or need to use special equipment while you recover. Your doctor will give you strict orders, and if you fail to follow these orders, you open the door to arguments against your injuries.
After all, you cannot claim that injuries are so debilitating that they affect your life – but you have no doctors follow-up appointments, or you ignore care instructions to recover. Furthermore, plaintiffs in an accident case are required to mitigate damages – that means reduce how much your case costs the defense. Failing to help your condition improve increases the costs, but the courts will not force a defendant to pay for extra medical care required because you refused treatment.
During follow up appointments and treatments, your doctor continues to notate in your medical records how you are recovering, updates to their prognosis, and treatments you received. These records are important, because you are claiming compensation for the medical costs you experience. Furthermore, as you go through treatments, your prognosis could change (for the better or worse). Your doctor’s notes will help determine if you have a long-term disability from the accident or if you will make a full recovery.
Medical records are key pieces of evidence in any accident case. After all, you are claiming that you have suffered injuries. Because of those injuries, you request that the court provide you with compensation for medical costs, future medical costs, and compensation for your pain and suffering.
Since your records are one of the most important pieces of evidence you have, you must ensure that the records have correct, thorough information about the accident, your injuries, and treatments you have received.
The prognosis must also match up in your records. If you claim that you are permanently disabled, will your medical records also state similar information? Or, does your doctor assume that you will recover from your injuries with further treatment?
Your physician’s reputation also plays a role.
Some doctors develop reputations for being associated with too many injury cases and law firms. When medical records stem solely from a physician associated with a law firm, those records hold less weight than those created by an independent physician.
When choosing a doctor, avoid one that advertises their services for accident victims. Their credibility is often minimal. And when you have a high-value case in front of you, you want a doctor with testimony that the jury and judge will believe.
Choose a doctor that has a good reputation in the community and among his or her peers, if you can.
Sometimes, your treatments may involve the services of non-medical professionals. These can include chiropractors, massage therapists, or even acupuncture treatments. While your physician may have recommended them, justifying these services is difficult. Insurance claims adjusters are less likely to take these treatments seriously when considering your claim.
If, however, your treating physician specifically recommends or prescribes these treatments, it may be easier to justify compensation for them. Therefore, instead of seeking treatment from these parties on your own, request a referral from your physician.
It is important that the physician you choose is a good communicator. You want someone who not only takes the time to treat you, but also hears your symptoms and documents them accurately. When a physician does not take their time with their patient, the records suffer.
Before you receive treatments, you want an accurate diagnosis for your injuries. The cost of treatments, diagnostic tests, and care are extensive. Therefore, you want a physician that is qualified to diagnose your condition and order the proper tests.
Your diagnosis and treatment are important in an injury case. If the doctor spends more time trying to diagnose you than treat you, the insurance company will argue the legitimacy of your injury claims – therefore, arguing against the pain and suffering compensating you seek.
Pain and suffering damages are typically calculated by taking your economic damages and multiplying them between one and five. When most of your costs are for diagnostics and not legitimate treatments, the multiplier is lower. A serious injury would have more treatment costs than diagnostic costs.
The duration and extensiveness of your treatments also plays a role in your case. Obviously, the longer your treatments span and the more severe they are, the more compensation you receive for pain and suffering.
You want a medical team that works together to make you better. You do not want unnecessary treatments, and you do not want endless treatments that do not improve your overall condition. Therefore, when your doctor refers you to a specialist for treatment, ask specifically about the proposed treatment plan, the justification for it, and your physician’s expected duration for that treatment.
The worst thing you could do in an injury case is to be dishonest or omit details. Do not assume that a pre-existing condition would bar you from receiving compensation. Instead, be honest with your doctor about any past injuries or illnesses you have had. Your doctor is a medical professional, and they can often tell whether a pre-existing condition is the issue or if the trauma of an accident caused your symptoms.
Furthermore, you may still receive compensation when an accident aggravates an old injury. For example, you have a shoulder injury from several years ago that you recovered from. In a car accident, that old injury is aggravated, causing pain and requiring further treatment. Even though it was from another incident, you can receive compensation for the medical costs, pain, and suffering associated with that injury being aggravated again.
Everyone plays a role in your case. While the doctor is an integral part of the injury claim process, so is the attorney you hire. A good attorney will not only help you ensure medical records are accurate, but also that you do not have the pitfalls that some cases experience by choosing the wrong doctor.