Everything You Need To Know About Dealing With Your Doctor If You Have Been Involved in a Personal Injury Accident
Most people who have been injured in an accident see a doctor long before seeing a lawyer. In a personal injury case, next to the victim himself, the doctor is probably the most important witness in the case.
Choose the Right Doctor - See a specialist. Today, there are specialists for almost any type condition. Choosing the right one is critical to your case, because at some point in time the insurance company who is fighting your case will be hiring a highly skilled specialist to try and minimize the nature and extent of your injuries. To counter this, you must have the right medical specialist on your side. This might be an orthopedist, neurologist, neurosurgeons, etc. or non-traditional health care providers such as a chiropractor or acupuncturist.
Avoid biased doctors. There are many healthcare providers in the community who have hidden biases against dealing with accident cases. Having one of these doctors as your treating doctor can be devastating for your case. Therefore, it is essential to know your doctor's views on personal injury cases.
Dealing with Doctors - Disclose all of your injuries. Once you have chosen the right medical professional, you must know how to deal with them effectively. The first thing the doctor will ask you is what hurts and how you were hurt. The history you give is critical. It is of the utmost importance that you tell the doctor all of the areas of your body that are in pain. This is true even if you think the problem is minor. The reason for this is that sometimes, these minor problems persist and become major problems after the acute phase of your injury passes. If the doctor does not have a record of these problems from the very beginning, it can be extremely difficult to relate the problem to the accident in question. For example, in a recent case, a woman had a fall at a store where she injured her low back, leg, and ankle. Her leg and ankle were swollen and painful. Her back was sore, but she did not complain about it to her doctors immediately because the ankle and leg were her primary areas of concern. When the leg and ankle healed within a few months, she was left with unremitting low back pain caused by a herniated disc. Her first report of low back pain in her medical records was a month after the accident. As a result the insurance company claimed it was unrelated to her fall. It was a major issue in her case, which could have been avoided easily if she had told her physician all of her complaints from the beginning, even the minor ones.
Be Accurate and Prudent in your discussions. A doctor's history includes not only your description of your injury and how it occurred; he also includes other things, which you would never dream would be in your medical records. There is no such thing as a casual off-the-record comment to your doctor. Comments about troubles at home, such as with a spouse or child are frequently inserted into the medical chart. Social habits such as use of alcohol and other drugs, recreational activities, and on the job problems are included. These type comments may have nothing to do with your injury, but in the hands of an experienced insurance company lawyer can be used against you to reduce the value of your case. The point is not to hide things from your doctor which relate to your medical care-candor is important. However, things that are not related to your medical care should remain private.
Fully Disclose Prior Related Problems. One of the worst things one can do is to fail to disclose to his/her treating doctor a complete and full medical history. If you've had prior problems in the same area that was injured in the accident, it is imperative that your doctor (and your lawyer) know about the prior problems. This can help the doctor in his diagnosis and treatment and will reflect favorably on your credibility.
Follow through with Doctor's Recommendations. Consistency in your care is extremely important. Therefore, it is imperative that you not miss appointments, or have large gaps of time in between appointments. Insurance companies see sporadic treatment as a sign that the person is not seriously injured. Likewise, delaying treatment after an injury occurs (thinking the problem will resolve on its own) presents difficulties when trying to prove that the treatment is actually related to the subject accident.
Conclusion. Your medical provider is essential to your case. Knowing who to see for treatment, the right type of treatment, and the proper way to deal with these health care providers will maximize your recovery. As your attorney, I will see that you have all of the pertinent medical information. If you have questions about the appropriate doctor for your injury, please feel free to call at 510-337-1600 or e-mail me for further advice.