After practicing personal injury law for over 20 years, you start to see patterns with respect to how people handle, or should I say mishandle, their medical care after an auto accident. Here are 10 mistakes people make when dealing with medical care after a car accident:
1) They don't get medical attention immediately after a car accident - If you are hurt, don't wait around. Go get examined by a doctor as soon as possible. Some people say, "Oh, I was waiting for the insurance company to tell me what to do." There is no such thing. Insurance companies aren't interested in your medical care. Frankly, they don't want you seeking medical care. They want to keep their money to themselves. It is up to you to get medical care. The insurance company is not going to arrange for it. Insurance adjusters and juries often believe that if you don't get medical care right away, then you must not be hurt that bad.
2) They hide their previous health conditions from doctors (and their lawyer) - If doctors ask you about your past medical history, you have to be honest with them. Hiding your medical history doesn't help anyone. First, doctors want to help you, and knowing your medical history may assist them in doing that. Also, failure to disclose your complete medical history will only come back to haunt you later on when the insurance company is reviewing your past medical history. I can't tell you how many clients tell me, "Oh, I never had back pain before!" Then, we review their past medical records and lo and behold, they complained of chronic back pain 6 months prior to the accident! In short, be complete and honest with your doctors (and your lawyer).
3) Discussing legal issues or lawsuits with their medical provider - The doctor's job is to treat your injuries, not to give you legal advice. Also, some doctors are reluctant to treat you if they learn you might be entertaining legal action in the future. Of course, you can tell them about the car accident and your resultant injuries, but you shouldn't get into deep legal discussions and strategy sessions with your doctor.
4) Their injuries are not properly documented - Juries and insurance companies aren't going to believe you are injured simply because you say you are injured. If something isn't in your medical records, it never happened as far as most insurance companies are concerned. Make sure your medical providers properly document EVERY injury and challenge you have from the accident. I tell clients to imagine the insurance adjuster sitting on their shoulder, writing down everything they say. The insurance adjuster will only consider what's in the records.
5) They skip medical appointments and physical therapy appointments - Again, if you skip appointments, insurance companies and juries will assume you're not injured - otherwise, you wouldn't miss your appointments. You may have a perfectly wonderful excuse, but now you have to explain things. Time spent explaining missed appointments isn't great for your case.
6) Forgetting to inform the doctor about how the injuries are affecting your work - You want to make sure your medical records reflect how, if at all, your injuries are affecting your work. Recently, I had a client who wanted a much bigger settlement than what I thought was reasonable. He told me about how much pain he had at work and all the difficulties he was having at work due to his injuries. Here's the problem - none of his medical records said anything about those difficulties. They were silent on the issue. It's hard to prove something was "significant" if it's not in any of the records.
7) Not taking the medications prescribed - I know that some medications can make you feel groggy or make your stomach upset. However, if you are having side effects, tell the doctor and perhaps he/she can prescribe something different. Simply not taking your medication as prescribed can be used against you - some will argue that you weren't getting better because you didn't follow the doctor's advice. Of course, do what's best for you, as there are always exceptions.
8) You stop treatment too soon - Most insurance adjusters and juries believe that if you stop medical treatment, you must be completely healed. We all know there are hundreds of reasons why you might stop treating, but your reasoning won't necessarily be adopted by the insurance adjuster. Just realize that if you stop treatment too soon, you might be hurting your case - especially if you have residual injuries.
9) Ignoring possible psychological injuries - Most injuries are physical. However, sometimes your injuries can be psychological. If you are having a particularly difficult time coping after a severe car accident, you might be experiencing tremendous anxiety or worse. Ask your doctor if seeing a therapist would be a good idea - at least for an evaluation or assessment.
10) Not keeping a journal - You should take the time to document how your injuries are affecting you. That way, when you visit the doctor's office, you will be able to tell the doctor how you are doing and what progress (or lack thereof) you are making. Those notes can also help your attorney when presenting your case to the insurance company.
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by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,