How Can a Doctor Affect My Personal Injury Case?
When you’re involved in an accident, your doctor has an important impact on the outcome of your case. The good news is, you do actually have some control over how it all goes, and the answer isn’t seeing some specialist who only works with accident victims.
1. Get treatment immediately after the accident
This may seem like common sense, but far too many people neglect to do so. Even if you don’t think you’re injured, you need to see a licensed physician as soon as possible (preferably in the immediacy) after your accident.
The reason for this is twofold. First, accident injuries can take time to show themselves. Not all injuries are associated with visible bruising or cuts. You may not notice the affects for days or even weeks, then suddenly be in debilitating pain, which can directly cause the second reason.
If you don’t see a doctor immediately, you leave the defense open to argue that your injury was either pre-existing or the result of another accident (one that the defendant wasn’t responsible for).
This is even truer if you don’t see a doctor until after retaining a personal injury lawyer.
2. Proper documentation is key
Medical records are a vital piece of evidence. Obviously, doctors and nurses are trained to document everything, but you should still inform them you were in an accident. That may affect the types of records they keep. For example, they’ll want to record that you were involved in an accident and any relevant details they uncover directly related to that. It may even affect the types of questions they ask, which could be key at trial. This is important because it establishes a direct link between the accident and the injuries you’re describing.
3. Follow-up treatments and rehab
In many cases, your doctor will prescribe rehabilitation and/or make recommendations about limiting your physical activity after the accident. It’s vital you follow their recommendations exactly. Things like skipping physical therapy, going back to work early or participating in recreational activities your doctor advised against could open you up to the argument you’ve exaggerated or fabricated your injuries.
4. Go to a reputable physician
Your regular physician or a emergency room doctor are perfectly fine choices. But many doctors and practices have developed a reputation for being associated with personal injury lawyers. Their testimony and even medical records may be considered suspect in court because of this.
You can’t rely on expert medical testimony either. The physician who actually saw you is usually seen as more credible than people who’ve been paid to testify (regardless of whether they’re telling the truth).
5. Deciphering medical records
You can ask for a copy of your medical records, but that may not help much. You know what they say about doctors’ handwriting. But it’s also possible to seemingly lose information when it hasn’t been transcribed from verbal notes. A lawyer can help you sort all that out, though you’ll have to sign certain documents giving them permission to do so.
6. Ensuring doctors help your case
Obviously, most people are probably finding out a lot of this information too late. Most of us don’t research how to interact with doctors after an accident before the accident even occurs. If you’ve been involved in an accident of any kind and are considering or planning to file a lawsuit, a qualified personal injury lawyer can help you sort out your options.