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Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP

Ten Mistakes When Dealing with Doctors


Victims who suffer injuries as a result of negligence often do not realize that the outcome of their case can often hinge on how they deal with the physicians who treat them for their injuries. Below are 10 common mistakes made in dealing with doctors that should be avoided if you are an injured negligence victim:

Medical Treatment is Not Immediately Sought by the Injured Victim

Any time you are injured in an accident that was caused by another party, whether a car accident or any other type of accident, it is your responsibility to prove that you were injured in the particular incident that took place. When you fail to seek medical attention for your injuries, insurance companies and jurors are likely to be of the opinion that if you were not seriously injured enough to need medical attention, you aren’t injured to such a degree that you deserve compensation. The defense will challenge whether you truly sustained serious injuries, so it is important that you seek medical treatment even if you believe your injuries are minor. Small pains should not be ignored, as they are often indicative of a more serious injury that will present itself in coming days or weeks. When you’re involved in a car accident, ask police to get an ambulance to transport you to the hospital. Even minor injuries can (and often do) get worse, so see a doctor right away. Nothing casts a doubt over the seriousness of your injures like an insurance attorney announcing to the jury that “He didn’t bother to seek medical attention for his injuries for nearly two weeks.”

Be Honest with Your Doctor About Your Injuries

If you had an illness or injury before being injured in the accident, answer questions the doctor asks about prior illness or injuries honestly. Your past medical history is used by doctors to diagnose and treat you, and providing information that isn’t accurate or complete can affect the quality of the treatment you receive. By attempting to conceal previous illness or injury from your doctor, you are putting your legal case in jeopardy. When a doctor forms a medical opinion based on inaccurate information, it may be rejected by insurance companies and juries. Be honest with your doctor about the accident as well, and never exaggerate the details, for example telling him or her your car was totaled when it was not. The attorney for the insurance company will have a heyday with this, destroying all of your credibility in the eyes of the jurors. Additionally, an old injury that has been reactivated due to an accident may be compensated, so do not assume that your injury must be “new” or “fresh.”

A Doctor is Not a Lawyer – Don’t Ask for Legal Counsel

Doctors are trained to evaluate your medical condition and help you heal, which essentially means that your lawsuit and/or lawyer are not his business. It is totally unnecessary to your treatment to share the details of your accident or the fact that you are filing a lawsuit with your doctor; in fact, most doctors want to stay as far away as possible from lawsuits. By sharing this information with your doctor, it could impact his or her willingness to treat you or to reach conclusions that may be helpful to your case. Once you have filed a personal injury claim, any information you confide to your doctor is no longer confidential.

Follow Up Doctor Visits are Ignored by the Injured Victim

Insurance companies and those who sit on a jury get to review your medical records; by not showing up for follow up doctor appointments, it gives the impression that your injuries may not be as serious as you claimed, or that you are not really committed to getting better. Once you file a lawsuit claiming injuries, your medical records are released to the insurance company. When you do not show up for a follow-up visit or even give an excuse, your record will simply say “no show.” Additionally, you do not want your doctor to be irritated due to skipped appointments, particularly if he or she will be a witness in your case. By ignoring follow up appointments, you could find the lawyer for the insurance company telling the jury that “His injuries must not have been too serious if he did not bother to show up for appointments.” This does NOT score points for your side!

Failing to Get Injuries Accurately Documented

Juries and insurance companies will not simply “take your word for it” when you say that you were injured; this information should be documented in your medical records, so that the insurance company and juries can read it. They will be looking for specific information regarding how soon you reported the pain or sought medical treatment after your injuries, and how long a time period you continued to report the pain to your doctor. Document everything about your injuries; the pain, how the injury has affected your ability to perform your work or everyday tasks, etc. Make copies of what you document and give it to your doctor – give your attorney a copy as well, and keep one for your own records should you need it later.

Failure to Inform your Doctor that you Cannot Work

Many injuries are serious enough that they require the victim to miss work or be off for an extended period of time. Again, insurance companies and juries will not simply take your word for it if you say that you were unable to work due to your injuries. Mention it to your doctor, and keep copies of notes you give him or her. It is important that your doctor is aware of the fact that you cannot work, and that he/she documents this information so that the insurance company will fully compensate you for your injuries.

Failure to Take Medication Prescribed by your Doctor

Doctors do not dispense prescriptions or medications for no reason, and you should take your medicine for the length of time your doctor prescribes. If you are experiencing side effects that you believe may be related to your medication, tell your doctor so that he/she can determine if you should take another medication for your symptoms or injuries. You can severely hurt your claim by having to admit that you made the decision not to follow your doctor’s advice.

Halting Medical Treatment Before your Injuries are Healed

Many people stop seeing their doctors once injuries seem to be on the mend, or once they are feeling better. Be aware that juries and insurance companies take all of this into account, and may believe that you must be healed if you decided to stop receiving medical treatment. Avoid waiting too long in between treatments as well, as gaps between doctor visits may look to the insurance company or jury as though you are being treated for an unrelated illness or injury. Continue treatment until your physician feels that he/she has done all possible to improve your condition. Even though you may not be completely cured, your goal should be to continue medical treatment until you reach the most improvement possible – then work to maintain that level of health.

Don’t Ignore Injury-Related Depression and/or Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are psychological conditions that are every bit as real as physical injuries, and those who are in pain or disabled often suffer from these conditions as well. Without proper treatment, depression and/or anxiety cannot be overcome. The party or parties responsible for your physical injuries are also responsible for the psychological conditions that may result. It is essential that you have a medical professional diagnose and treat your depression or anxiety, as insurance companies and juries are not likely to compensate you for these conditions unless documented by a physician.

Keep Thorough Records in a File

While it is important that you seek medical treatment, keep follow up appointments, take your medications and follow your doctor’s advice to the letter, it is just as important that you keep a file containing every piece of information related to your injuries. Your lawyer needs to know about every doctor you see after you are injured. Document treatment referrals, all doctor orders, work restrictions, medications prescribed, etc. Also keep all materials that are provided to you by insurance companies. The more thorough your record keeping, the better case your attorney can present to the insurance company or jury – which means you will likely be awarded maximum compensation for all of the injuries you have suffered, not just a portion of them.

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