Surgery After An Orlando Auto Accident: Will It Impact Case Value?
As Orlando car accident lawyers, we are often contacted by people immediately after they suffered injuries in a car accident. Sometimes they call within hours or days of the car accident, which is a great thing because we can help increase their case value the most in the earliest stages (assuming they were injured, there is sufficient insurance coverage, and they did not cause the accident, or, in the most serious injury cases, there is an argument that both sides shared some fault). At this stage, they usually have no idea whether they will ever need surgery.
The reason is that right after any car accident, many injured people do not know the extent of their injuries, nor what treatment might be needed (especially surgery). This is very often true with back & neck injuries. For example, your neck might be hurting a lot (or not at all, due to adrenaline) within hours of the accident. But you may believe, perhaps based on past muscular injuries, that your neck will heal within a few days or weeks. And sometimes that is true. But sometimes the pain is caused by structures in the body that will not heal properly without surgery.
In many of these cases, even your treating doctors often will not know whether you need surgery immediately (unless they recommend emergency surgery, which, if they do, you should seriously consider — or at least get a second opinion and move forward if both doctors agree — although sometimes there is no time to wait for a second opinion). But in the cases that do not require emergency surgery, treating doctors often, rightly, want to try the most conservative types of treatment before considering surgery, such as physical therapy for several months, or longer, perhaps progressing to injections if physical therapy isn’t successful.
But at some point after trying more conservative treatments, doctors sometimes say that surgery is the only option for helping you recover.
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If Your Doctor Says You Need Surgery, How Will The Surgery Affect Your Auto Accident Case Value?
The question surgery often raises in personal injury / auto accident litigation, for our clients, is whether the surgery will affect the value of their case, and how. Some clients seriously fear that getting surgery, which will create additional medical bills (which we have to repay from any case proceeds, by law in Florida, before our clients recover any money), could actually lower the money they get in their pockets from their auto accident case. They think that since their medical bills must be repaid out of their settlement proceeds, logically, they should try to keep their bills as low as possible. So they want LESS medical care and definitely want to delay any expensive surgery, if they can stand to wait, so that they get more money at the end of the case.
Although this sounds logical, this is actually very faulty thinking, most of the time (but not always).
Like anything and everything in the law, the actual right thing to do is complicated.
First Things First: Your Health Should Dictate Whether You Have Surgery, Regardless of Money
First of all, every surgical decision should FIRST prioritize your health and personal comfort level — regardless of the impact on your legal case. If you need the surgery to feel good again, and you are convinced that you have a good doctor, and you are convinced that the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks, then you should go forward. But if the surgery is optional, and you aren’t convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks, then you should not have the surgery — again regardless of the impact on your legal case.
Surgery Will Usually (And Sometimes Greatly) Increase Your Auto Accident Case Value
That all being said, in MOST cases, having surgery will significantly increase the value of your case. And your personal, even very good and understandable reasons for not having surgery, will simply (and sadly) not matter, in the sense that your legal case value will still be lower if you do not have recommended surgery, again in MOST (but not all) cases.
The reasons for this reality are complicated, but they include: (1) if you do not have the surgery, then the defense attorney for the insurance company will argue that you are causing your pain & suffering to continue by ignoring your doctor’s recommendation that you have surgery (which, according to your doctor, usually would be done to reduce or eliminate your pain or disability); (2) even if you would still have pain and/or disability with or without the surgery, the price of surgery increases your medical bills. Very generally speaking, assuming there is enough insurance coverage, having higher medical bills often leads to higher values for pain & suffering (which, roughly speaking, is the amount left in your pocket from an auto accident settlement). The math gets complicated and really isn’t worth trying to calculate in your head. But the bottom line is that higher medical bills equal more than proportionally higher settlements (unless there isn’t enough money in the pot OR your case has unique problems like you delayed treatment for an extended time (which brings into question whether the accident is really what caused your medical problems), or you had another accident after accident in litigation, or something along those lines).
So IF there is enough insurance coverage, then it is ALWAYS better to have more timely doctors’ appointments, therapy appointments, injections, and, if needed & recommended, surgery. That’s just a reality of the numbers and the way that auto accident cases are settled, or decided by juries if your case gets that far.
Sometimes Having Surgery Will Decrease Your Case Value (Usually When Insurance Coverage Is Too Low)
There are times when having more extensive medical treatment can lower the amount of money left in your pocket at the end of the case. This is why, in every potential surgical case, we analyze the numbers, and explain the pros and cons to our client in close cases. (Obviously we can only explain the LEGAL not MEDICAL impact of any treatment, including surgery. Your doctor is the only one who can tell you the medical pros and cons of any treatment decision.)
In any event, the money left in your pocket could be lower, if you have surgery, if the insurance coverage is low to moderate versus the price of the surgery. In moderate value insurance policies, we might have to get out our calculators, then add together both existing medical bills and estimated pricing for the surgery, before we can tell you whether the surgery would have a net positive impact on your ultimate recovery. (In the lowest value insurance policies, if surgery is optional medically, then it often makes sense to wait until after settling your legal case to have surgery.)
If There Is Plenty Of Insurance Coverage, Surgical Cases Have Higher Values
In cases with moderate to severe injuries, and HIGH value insurance policies, then having surgery will almost always increase your case value (again unless you have some really bad facts like you had another accident, had a serious medical condition before your accident, related to your surgery, or had no treatment for a long time then had surgery, etc).
(On a related note, more extensive surgeries increase case value more than less extensive surgeries.)
Circling back around, we realize that having surgery is one of the most personal decisions in life. We really encourage our clients to first make the surgical decision based on the advice of their doctor, in combination with their own personal health goals, and comfort level. But if our clients are sure they want surgery, and they are only wondering whether to wait until before or after their auto accident case settles, then the best *financial* decision is *usually* to have the surgery. But there are even exceptions to that rule — which is why we keep in touch with clients who have moderate to serious injuries, and evaluate the impact of surgery on their case value. This allows them to make both a legally and medically informed decision about whether to move forward with surgery.
The bottom line is that most clients’ case values will increase if they have surgery (unless there is not enough insurance coverage). So if you are only questioning the timing of surgery (like before or after your auto accident settlement), then you should discuss the details of your case with your Orlando car accident lawyer, so that you will have a clear understanding of the financial impact of delaying versus proceeding with surgery.
If you have had an accident involving moderate to serious injuries, we have a small team of very experienced and award-winning lawyers and staff, who would be glad to discuss your case.
If you would like us to evaluate the potential value of YOUR auto accident, please call to discuss the best strategy in your case. We have a small team of very experienced & award-winning car accident lawyers. We focus on low volume and the highest level of service. You are welcome to text or call (407) 803-2139 for a FREE case evaluation 24/7/365. If we are able to accept your case, then we will provide an extensive consultation regarding what you should expect, including how to maximize your case value.
Please feel free to call, text or send an email 24/7/365 (calling will get you the fastest response). We will either return your call immediately, or get back to you usually within 24 hours.
Text Or Call 24 Hour Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Hotline (407) 803-2139
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About the Author:Tina Willis is a serious injury, accident & death lawyer, based in Orlando, Florida, although she accepts cases throughout the states of Florida and Georgia. Ms. Willis has won many prestigious industry awards, best personal injury & car accident lawyer awards, and recovered multi-millions for her clients. She was formerly a law professor, and graduated second in her law school class back in 1997. She formerly worked for some of the largest defense firms in the country, often on multi-million dollar cases. She used to represent large corporations & insurance companies, so she knows their playbook. We are very focused on the highest quality client service, and maximizing the value of every case we handle. We vigorously prosecute serious injury and death cases caused by auto accidents, semi-truck accidents, slip and fall accidents, products & premises liability cases, as well as medical malpractice.