Personal Injury Case Value Relies Heavily On Medical Treatment
I just have to gripe for a second.
A few minutes ago, I spoke with one of my clients. When he and I first talked, I told him very clearly that he had to continue medical treatment for the duration of his personal injury case. I do this with all of my clients. During initial consultations, I repeat myself, over and over, making the point that my clients must continue treatment, or they will end with a very low or non-existent case value.
So, imagine my frustration when, from time to time, I call some clients who say that they stopped going to the doctor. My next statement is always: do you remember when I told you that you had to continue treatment for me to recover just about anything in your personal injury case? Because I’m pretty sure I must have mentioned the link between treatment and case value at least 20 times during our 2 hour initial consultation. I also repeat that fact in the little handout I now give all of my clients. So they can’t say that I didn’t tell them.
This particular case was even more frustrating because the doctor told this slip & fall accident client that he needs surgery. The client also wants surgery. Surgical cases, all other things being equal, have higher case value than non-surgical cases. However, all other things are never equal, are they? For one, that doesn’t necessarily apply if the client has a huge gap in treatment. There might also be varying degrees of fault based defenses (basically arguments about whether the defendant is really liable for the injuries in the first place).
But, anyway, let me be clear. Again. Extensive medical records are an essential centerpiece of the evidence in any personal injury case. This includes car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, biking accidents, boating accidents, slip and fall, products liability, medical malpractice, and any other bodily injury case. From a proof of damages perspective, all of those cases are the same. We personal injury attorneys MUST prove that you are really injured. And, trust me, the insurance company or corporate defendant is NOT going to take your word for your pain. Everyone says they have pain. Everyone says the accident has screwed up their life. However, we absolutely MUST have doctor and other medical providers who agree. You also must stick with you treatment, no matter what. Otherwise, the insurance company will successfully argue that you must not be that injured. You see, people who are really hurting continue treatment.
Your medical records are not a small part of your injury or accident case. Both your own lawyer, and the defense attorneys, will carefully review them. They are essential proof that your injury is real. Let me put this even more bluntly: without medical records, I cannot recover one red cent for you. Not one. Further, if you skip appointments, or have long gaps with no treatment, then you greatly reduce the amount of money I can recover for you. So, if you want to fully receive the maximum possible case value in your injury case, you must stick with treatment until your doctor tells you that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Or your accident case concludes. At a minimum, you need to be seeing some medical provider at least once a month. You should be going even more often if your medical provider recommends more frequent treatment. For example, chiropractors or physical therapists often recommend several visits per week. If they do, you MUST attend these appointments.
I have already mentioned that pain pills are not good for your case value, if they are your only form of treatment. So generally I’m talking about either chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, injections, surgery, or post-surgical rehab.
(1) The treatment the doctor recommended isn’t working. This is a common response to physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, and injections. First, I must say that these treatments take time to work. The general rule is that you should be improving, even if improvement is slow. You don’t have to improve after every visit. But, over several visits, there should be an overall improvement in your symptoms. If you are not getting better after numerous PT or chiro visits, and you are still experiencing pain, or other life restrictions, then you MUST go back to your doctor. You need to ask him what else can be done to help you, aside from pain pills, if the PT / chiro is no longer helping. Ditto for injections. If you try them, and they do not work, you MUST go back to your doctor to ask what other treatment might help. (Remember: never (ever) tell your doctor that your lawyer told you to continue treatment. If you want to know what you should tell your doctor, then call me. This is why all of my clients have my cell phone number.)
(2) Going to physical therapy is inconvenient / is taking too much time. I definitely understand that PT is both time-consuming and inconvenient. I actually had a hip injury myself several years ago, and went to PT several times per week for, gees, 4-5 years. It was terrible. But I kept going because I was improving, albeit very slowly (and I switched PTs several times hoping for better results). I also persisted because my pain was so bothersome that not going was not an option. This is exactly why insurance companies only believe those who continue treatment. Those who are really hurting continue seeking help. Further, as I said above, without medical records reflecting ongoing treatment, your case is worth zip (or nearly zip, depending on other factors). Unfortunately, I can’t change that fact, regardless of the inconvenience. I can only communicate what you must do. Following my advice is up to you.
(3) I don’t have transportation to get to my medical appointments. This is a really sad and frustrating situation. I hate when clients are facing this problem, especially if the injury is the reason that they can’t drive (and they have no one to help them). Another even more tragic problem are clients who are homeless. Unfortunately, no matter the struggle, you must be creative to find a way to get treatment. I will help you brainstorm. But treatment still is not optional. Taking the bus or asking friends or family for a ride are common solutions. Additionally, Orlando’s Lynx bus provides door-to-door transportation for the disabled, but you must apply to the program, which you can do here. I wish there were something more I could say or do to help.
(3) I don’t have insurance. That may or may not be a problem. Either way, you should read my upcoming blog post article outlining the options for those without health insurance.
(4) I can’t afford the co-payments or deductible. In certain types of cases, some doctors will accept LOPs in lieu of co-payments or deductibles (meaning letters of credit from your personal injury lawyer). If that is not possible, then you might want to ask the hospital or doctor whether they will take a small monthly payment toward the balance. Many will agree to this type of payment schedule, which gives you time to settle your case before creditors come calling.
(4) I’m sick of receiving PT / chiro, and the doctor says there’s nothing else he can do for me. Okay, enter the second opinion. You are going to need one. Remember when I told you to call me if this happened? If you are absolutely sick of the treatment, and do not want further treatment, then let me know. Depending on the facts, we may be able to recover for you, without seeing more doctors. That totally depends on the type of case, length of treatment, current pain levels, etc. But the point is that you might need a second opinion, if you are still hurting, and still willing to keep seeing doctors to try to get help.
Anyway, the bottom line is that treatment is not optional. So the goal must be to find a way to get treatment, one way or another. Without doctors, personal injury lawyers cannot possibly help you.
Ms. Willis is a personal injury attorney based in Orlando, Florida, although she accepts serious injury cases statewide.