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10 Mistakes People Make When Seeing Doctors After an Accident
1. Don’t Wait to Seek Medical Treatment after an Accident
Too often an insurance company or a defense lawyer argue “how badly could your client be hurt, she didn’t even see a doctor for two weeks after the accident.?” If you are feeling pain or other symptoms after an accident, go straight to the hospital or your physician to get checked out. You will get better medical attention with prompt care. Insurance companies and juries often believe that if you aren’t hurt badly enough to seek immediate medical attention, you aren’t hurt badly enough to deserve compensation. If you assert a legal claim, you are responsible for proving that your injuries were caused by the accident and not some “pre-existing” condition or other cause. If you wait several days after an accident to seek medical treatment, you can count on the insurance company or their lawyer arguing that there was some other “event” that occurred after the accident that is causing your pain. If you are having pain or problems after an accident, don’t ignore them. Get to a doctor or a hospital as soon as possible and get checked out.
While it is critical to obtain medical attention immediately after an accident, it’s a very bad idea to go see a lawyer before you obtain medical treatment. Going to see a lawyer before you seek medical attention certainly gives the insurance company or a jury the impression that your legal claim was a much higher priority than your health.
2 Missing Medical Appointments Will Ruin Your Personal Injury Case
One of the first things that the insurance company will look for, when it receives your medical records, is whether you missed any medical appointments. When you skip doctor or therapy appointments, you open the door for the insurance company’s lawyers to argue (1) you must not have been hurt as badly as you are claiming; and (2) you must not have cared about getting better.
There is a very simple way to avoid all of these problems. From the very beginning of your medical treatment until the very last appointment when you are finally released from your doctor’s care, you have to commit to attending ALL of your scheduled appointments. If, for some reason, you cannot keep a scheduled doctor’s appointment or therapy appointment, be sure to call the office and let them know, in detail, exactly why you cannot make the appointment. Also, be sure to reschedule the appointment.
3. When Asked About the Accident, Stick to the Facts You Know
When you see a doctor or a therapist after an accident, you will be asked to explain “what happened” in the accident. You may be asked:
- The speed of the vehicle that hit you;
- How far your car was pushed after impact;
- How much damage there was to other vehicle
When you tell your doctor that you were hit at 50 mph, and your report of the speed is recorded in your hospital records, and your report of the speed turns out to be wrong, it gives the insurance company’s lawyer an opportunity to question your credibility.
The point is, when you are asked details of an accident, don’t guess or speculate. If you don’t know how fast the other car was going when it hit you, it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” Don’t tell your doctor you car or the other party’s car was “totaled” if it only sustained $2,000 damage. Don’t guess or speculate. Make sure the factual information you give to your medical providers is accurate.
4. Be Completely Honest with Your Doctor About Your Health History
Your doctor or therapist will be asking you questions about your pre-accident health history. Likewise, your doctor or therapist will undoubtedly ask you whether you have had any accidents or injuries that may be affecting the same part of the body that was injured in the current accident. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of honesty when it comes to disclosing facts about your pre-accident medical history.
Doctors rely on past medical history to diagnose and treat you. Providing incomplete information can impact that quality of medical care you receive. Concealing prior injury or illness from your doctor will also hurt your legal case. Once you make a legal claim, you can rest assured that insurance companies and their lawyers will be scouring your pre-accident medical records to see whether you have injured that same bodypart in a previous accident. When you assert a personal injury claim, your doctor will be asked by the other side whether you disclosed the prior injury or prior medical treatment. The other side will argue that your doctor’s diagnosis of your injuries is questionable because he or she was operating on incomplete information. It’s much better to be 100% truthful about your pre-accident medical history. Your doctor will usually be able to distinguish the injuries you suffered in the past from the injuries that were caused by the accident.
5. Don’t Talk to Your Doctor About Your Legal Case
Your doctor’s primary concern is the diagnosis and treatment of your medical condition. Remember, whatever you say to your doctor or therapist is likely to wind up being recorded in your medical records. If your doctor asks you a question about your legal claim, always tell the truth. If your doctor’s office asks you to complete forms that ask if your injury was someone else’s fault or is the subject of a claim or lawsuit, be sure to give complete and honest answers. Eventually, your lawyer may want to enlist your doctor to testify on your behalf, but that is something your lawyer should handle without your involvement.
6.Tell Your Medical Providers About Your Pain & Limitations
Insurance companies and juries will not believe that you are in pain just because you say so. They need to read about your pain in your medical records. When insurance companies and juries review your records, they will be looking to see how soon you reported pain after an injury and how long you continued to report that pain.
Don’t tell your doctor that your injury is “all better” if it is still bothering you. During the progress of your medical treatment, you are likely to be asked to rate your pain on a 1 to 10 scale. While it’s nice to be able to report to your doctors and therapists that their treatment plan is improving your pain, it’s equally important to be honest. If your pain is not improving, you need to tell your doctors and therapists. If a particular course of therapy is actually making your pain symptoms worse, you need to speak up and let your doctors and therapists know the situation. Oftentimes, your doctor will schedule follow- up appointments that are scheduled 4 to 6 weeks in the future, but will tell you to come back in the meantime if your condition worsens. If your symptoms do worsen, don’t tough it out. Call your doctor’s office and schedule an appointment to be evaluated.
7. Cooperation with Your Doctor is Critical to Your Legal Case
Most people have a “family doctor” that they have seen for years. If you have seen the same family physician for many years, you probably trust his or her opinion. Hopefully, you “get along” with your family doctor. Unfortunately, if you are involved in an accident and suffer traumatic injuries, you may be referred to medical specialists who you have never seen in the past. You may find yourself treating with a physician you don’t care for or don’t get along with. Even though you may not like your doctor’s personality, cooperation with your doctor is critical. Always bear in mind that anything you say to your doctor may wind up in his chart. Be very careful about arguing with your doctor about his/her diagnosis or the treatment plan they are prescribing. Doctors don’t like to be “second-guessed” by patients. While questions about the diagnosis or treatment plan are encouraged, you don’t want to give your doctor the impression that you know more about your condition or care than he does. That attitude will come across in your medical chart as uncooperative and argumentative. You can bet that the insurance company’s lawyer will try to portray you as a problem patient who kept “second-guessing” his doctor.
8. Medications Need to be Managed by Your Provider
A common problem is a patient who decides (on his or her own) that the medication prescribed by the doctor is not working and simply stops taking it on his/her own. There is a reason why doctors prescribe a particular type of medication for a particular time period. You should follow your doctor’s recommendation until your doctor tells you something different. If you think a medication is making your muscles ache or your stomach hurt, say so; side effects are not rare, and your doctor can usually switch you to another drug. Don’t put yourself in the position where you have to admit that you chose not to follow your doctor’s advice. This can be very harmful to your claim.
9. Stopping Medical Treatment Too Soon
Insurance companies and juries often believe if a person stops seeking medical treatment for an injury, the injury must be healed. They also believe that significant gaps between treatments suggest that you healed from one injury and must have suffered a new one unrelated to the first. If you have an injury that is affecting your ability to function, you should seek medical treatment until you are healed or until a doctor tells you that there is nothing more that can be done to improve your condition.
If you are still suffering and your doctor tells you to “come back as needed” or “call me if you have any problems,” make sure to ask your physician how long you should wait to call if you continue to have the same level of pain and disability.
10. Keep Written Documentation
It is important that your lawyer and each of your doctors know every medical care provider that you see after an injury. It is also important that you keep track of all doctors’ orders, treatment referrals and/or work restrictions. Keeping a file of all materials provided to you by health care providers and insurance companies will ensure that you can provide all necessary information to your lawyer at the appropriate time.