How a Doctor Can Make or Break a Personal Injury Case


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The injuries that a person suffers in a personal injury case are personal by nature. Two individuals who are involved in the same accident and even in the same vehicle may suffer extremely different injuries. Each individual may suffer injuries of a different nature and heal at a different rate. Having a doctor be able to testify about the victimís injuries and having solid records can help make a personal injury case while not having these aspects of the case can break it.

Treatment Immediately After the Accident

The treatment and records associated with the accident can be a critical component of a case. These records can help establish the link between the accident and the injuries that the victim suffered. Treating doctors often have much more credibility than hired medical experts who are sometimes perceived by judges and juries as being monetarily incentivized to provide the opinion that they are being paid for.

If the personal injury victim does not seek medical treatment immediately after the accident or only does so after receiving such advice from a lawyer, the jury may find it more difficult to link the accident and the injuries together. Additionally, the defense may attempt to argue that the victim had a pre-existing injury and this was the cause for the medical attention.

Follow-Up Treatment and Rehabilitation

After receiving initial treatment after an accident, personal injury victims must often continue treatment for a specific period of time. They may also have to undergo rehabilitation treatment. Personal injury victims should ensure that they strictly follow their doctorís orders related to this follow-up treatment, as well as instructions regarding how long to wait to return to work or participate in recreational activities. Not doing so can raise the inference that the victim may not be as injured as he or she claims to be if he or she is not taking the steps necessary to recover from the injuries.

Documentation

The medical records are usually a key piece of evidence in a personal injury case. As such, it is important that the medical records contain thorough information regarding the victimís accident, injuries and treatment. For example, the records should indicate that the patient commenced treatment after being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Clearly establishing the link between the accident and the injuries can bolster a claim for settlement with the insurance company.

Reputation

Unfortunately, some doctors develop reputations of being associated with personal injuries and certain personal injury law firms. When the only medical records derive from one of these practices, the records or testimony may not appear credible. It can also appear to be orchestrated by the personal injury law firm. In the case of litigation, such doctors often fall apart during a strong cross-examination. Instead, it is better to use a doctor who has an established positive reputation in the community.

Another issue is patients going to non-physicians, such as chiropractors, massage therapists or acupuncturists for treatment. Insurance adjusters may not give much credence to these types of treatments.

One strategy is for the victim to see his or her treating physician for treatment. He or she can then receive recommendations for necessary specialists through a doctor whom he or she trusts and is familiar with the patientís condition.

Communication

Not all medical records are perfectly scribed and have all of the relevant information. However, a personal injury lawyer can discuss the records and treatment with the doctor, provided that the client provides the proper permissions for such contact. This is especially helpful when the medical records have lost information when a doctorís words have not been transcribed by a nurse or medical assistant.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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