"Gaps in Treatment Will Destroy Your Claim"
The Importance of Choosing the Right Doctors to Treat and Document Your Injuries
This is a guide on how to find a doctor after a car accident. If you are injured and need to see a doctor, there are few things that you need to know. It’s important to go to the right injury doctors and even more important to avoid the wrong doctors.
Quick Summary on Choosing the Best Doctor After a Car Accident:
- Do Not Wait to Find a Doctor – Find one Immediately
- Do Not Rely on Your Primary Care Doctor
- Avoid Doctors from Legal Referral Services
- Find a Specialist that Treats Your Specific Types of Injuries
- Make sure the Doctor Knows how Personal Injury Cases Work
- Tell All of your Doctors about any and all of your Current and Previous Injuries or Conditions
- Treat Regularly with your Doctor until you reach MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement)
1: Do Not Rely on Your Primary Care Physician
Most people think they should call their primary care doctor after an accident. Although your primary care doctor is probably an excellent physician, there are two huge reasons why you shouldn’t rely on them as your main treating doctor.
Firstly, Accident Injuries are Not their Area of Focus
First, your primary care doctor probably doesn’t want to get involved in treating accident injuries. Your primary care physician focuses his care of patients who have internal medical conditions. Rather than on spinal injuries, concussions, broken bones, and such things. Your primary care physician will likely refer you out to a specialist.
However, I suggest that after an accident you call your primary care doctor. Tell them about your injuries and see if they will even see you for them. They probably will tell you to see a specialist and explain how to find a doctor after a car accident that can treat your specific problems.
Secondly, Medical Records Determine the Value of Your Claim
Your medical records will be one of the most important parts of determining the value of your claim. When a demand is made, the insurance company will read your medical records. Based on what your records say, they will set a value for your claim.
Have Your Ever Seen Your Own Medical Chart?
Your medical chart probably has one or two things the doctor wrote by hand about what you told them was bothering you. Or with electronic medical records, (which you almost never get to see) it has check boxes and short sentences about your conditions.
This is What Will be Used to Value Your Case:
So, imagine for a moment if your primary care doctor records say “patient has neck stiffness, headaches and numbness in the right arm. Proscribed Flexeril, and rest.”
That is all good and fine and the insurance company will set a value for your claim based upon this limited information. The insurance company knows that knowing how to find a doctor after a car accident isn’t common knowledge and many people make this mistake.
2: The Real Story on Primary Care Doctors VS Specialists
Now, imagine you went to a specialist or two for your injuries. These include doctors such as orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, physiatrists, chiropractors, or any other qualified injury doctor. Below is a list of what they write in their records about your injuries after an accident.
This is What Will be Used to Value Your Case
- Detailed history of what happened to you in the accident
- Detailed history about any pre-existing injuries or conditions you may have
- List numerous types of medical tests they performed such as range of motion, nerve compression tests, etc
- If they ordered specialized MRI’s, X-rays, digital motion X-rays, etc
- Prescriptions to physical therapy, occupational therapy, vocational rehabilitation, etc
- If they sent you to other specialists who may evaluate you for surgery, or pain management
- Key information about what caused your injuries, such as the car crash and if it aggravated your pre-existing injuries
- They explain whether your injuries are “permanent” or not, if you will have them for the rest of your life or not
- What your future medical needs will be for the rest of your life
- Impairment ratings: What effect your injuries will have on your ability to work, enjoy life, or perform daily activities
You Need a Specialist so the Insurance Company Can Accurately Value Your Case
With all of this detailed information about how the accident has caused you harms, losses, and injuries, the insurance company will be able to justify paying you much more for your injuries. All of the important details have been documented in writing for them to see.
And unfortunately, no matter how great your primary care physician is, they are not equipped to document your medical problems with the detail and specifics that are SO important for an insurance claim.
3. How to Find a Doctor After a Car Accident
Try to find a doctor who specializes in treating your specific type of injury. Do not rely on your primary care doctor to treat or diagnose any of your injuries. You need injury doctors who understand the importance of documenting the causes and long-term effects of your injuries in your medical records.
Most primary care doctors do not include all the vital information that need to be in your medical records. Some doctors don’t understand because they don’t specialize in injuries. It’s extremely important to know how to find a doctor after a car accident to treat you properly.
Avoid Doctors from Legal Referral Services
Avoid injury doctors that work with legal referral services. They usually specialize in using up your no-fault PIP insurance benefits more than focusing on treating your injuries. Avoid legal referral services like 411 Pain and Ask Gary.
They Will Decrease the Case Value and Steal Your PIP Insurance
These referral services tend to have a bad reputation with the insurance industry. When your medical records come from these injury mills, the insurance company will likely offer you less money. This is because they just don’t believe all of the stuff when it comes from Ask Gary or 411 Pain.
If your case has to go to trial, you can bet the insurance defense lawyer will make a big deal about your doctor working for Ask Gary or 411 Pain. I can tell you that I have seen juries roll their eyes when they hear about these injury mills.
4. Here’s the Deal: Tell Doctors About ALL Prior Injuries
Make sure you tell your injury doctors about all your previous injuries or conditions from the past. Hiding pre-existing injuries or conditions will hurt your credibility and your recovery. If you bring an injury claim and don’t tell your doctors about previous injuries, the insurance company will make you out to be a liar.
Otherwise, Insurance Companies Will Say You aren’t Truthful
Insurance companies will say since you didn’t tell your doctors about prior injuries, then you cannot be trusted. They will also say you were trying to manipulate your doctor by holding back that you had a prior complaint 20 years ago about your neck, or whatever happened to you.
Pre-Existing Injuries Help Your Case, Not Hurt It
I tell people all the time: don’t be afraid of a pre-existing condition. You should brag about them. Almost everyone has some sort of pre-existing injury. People with pre-existing injuries are easier to hurt and harder to fix.
In the state of Florida, people with pre-existing injuries are entitled to more recovery, not less. So, if you make sure you tell everyone about any pre-existing injury, then your doctors can deal with it, and you sound much more believable to an insurance company or a jury.
5: Treatment with Your Doctor
It is very important to keep all of your doctor appointments because you don’t want any gaps in treatment. Gaps in treatment decrease the value of your claim and decrease your chances of recovering from your injuries. Knowing how to find a doctor after a car accident is only half the battle.
Gaps in Treatment Will Destroy Your Claim
Also, if your doctor documents that you will need future care in the future to help maintain your health, and then you stop going to your doctor appointments, then no one will pay you for your future medical needs.
Hurt People Seek Treatment: If you Don’t Treat, You Must Not be Hurt
Why would a judge or a jury give you money to go to a doctor in the future when you are not going now. So allowing big gaps in your treatment will create big gaps in your settlement. Treat now or forever hold your peace.
Saving Evidence for the Jury
Help your attorney with your case by saving evidence for the jury if your case goes to trial. When treating with injury doctors, save any and all empty pill bottles. Save over-the-counter pill bottles too because they are great proof of how the injury affected you. The quantity of medications you take over time for an injury is important evidence to show a jury.
6. Don’t Wait to Find a Doctor – You Should Go Right Away
#1: The Insurance Company Will Say Something Else Caused Your Injuries
First, by going to a doctor immediately, you prevent the insurance company from saying “Hey, wait a minute, if the person was hurt so badly, why didn’t they go to the emergency room or doctor right away?”
Adrenaline After a Car Accident Will Mask Injuries
Sure, you were thinking that you were okay, that you would be fine, that the aches and pains would go away. But unfortunately they did not. So now you have this gap in between the moment of the accident and your first medical record.
Then the Insurance Company Will Call You a Liar
The insurance company will harp on this. They will suggest that you were injured somewhere else, not from this accident. It will hurt your credibility throughout the case because they will constantly come back to this fact.
#2: Injuries Without Immediate Care Can Prevent You from Fully Recovering
Second, by waiting, you are guessing. By guessing about your injuries, you are hoping that you will feel better, but you may be making your injuries worse by failing to get proper treatment right away. Immediate care can make a big difference in your final outcome.
You Can Reduce Internal Scar Tissue and Pressure from Building
By proper care you may help reduce internal scar tissue damage to your ligaments and muscles. You might have pressure taken off of nerves and prevent further radiculopathy (radiating nerve damage) in your arms or legs.
You may have tests done like MRI of your spine to get you to a spinal surgeon before you cause irreversible nerve loss.
#3: You Risk Waiving Your $10,000 of PIP Benefits
Third, if you are in a car accident, and you don’t seek treatment in the first 14 days, then you may waive your PIP no-fault benefits. If you don’t see a doctor in time, you will waive $10,000 in benefits to treat your injuries.
7. What If You Can’t Afford a Doctor:
If you are seriously injured go to the hospital. When you have PIP insurance, they will bill your car insurance. If you are a passenger in someone else’s car, or you are a pedestrian, you may be entitled to the PIP from the car you were riding in or hit by.
Some Doctors Will Wait to be Paid At the End
There are some doctors who will treat you and if you have a good lawyer, the doctors will wait until the end of your insurance claim to be paid. This is called an Insurance Security Agreement. This is basically a contract between you, your doctor and your lawyer where your lawyer agrees to hold back settlement money until the doctor’s bill is paid.
8. How a Lawyer Can Help You and Your Doctors
In catastrophic injury cases, lawyers hire experts who help document and quantify future medical needs for our injured clients. These experts are usually medical doctors who spend a great deal of time meeting with the client, measuring and evaluating their injuries and conditions, then they prepare a “Life Care Plan.”
How a Life Care Plan Can Accurately Value Your Claim
A life care plan is basically an accurate prediction of the types of health care needs that are reasonably medically certain to happen. Their job is to make sure that all sorts of items are considered and not forgotten in predicting future care.
They consider things such as medicine, surgeries, special equipment, future testing and evaluations, how long equipment lasts before it need to be replaced, they factor in costs for home care, rehabilitation, and palliative care just to name a few things.
They basically create a shopping list of things that will be needed for the rest of the person’s life. It is an important job, because if they leave off something, then the person will go without it.
The Negligent Driver Should Pay, Not the Tax Payers
Or, the taxpayers will have to pay the bill for future medical needs. It is important that the person who caused the wrong pay for it and not the taxpayers.
How Vocational Experts Can Help Value Your Case
In many cases we hire vocational experts whose job it is to explain how injuries have affected our client’s ability to work in the past and more importantly in the future. These experts are usually Ph.D.s who have focused their work on measuring work capacity and the losses associated with injuries
Your Doctors and a Vocational Expert Will Calculate Your Total Losses
These experts come to court and explain in detail and answer questions about how injuries make it harder for some people to get hired, or if they have a job, they may not get raises or promotions, or the injuries may shorten their work life.
Our vocational experts will often talk with the client’s treating doctors, review the medical records, interview and test our client for strengths and weaknesses in their ability to perform duties on the job. They will create a report and then be asked to come to court to explain their findings to the jury.
The Bottom Line:
The bottom line is that the quality of your doctors has a significant effect on the value of your injury case. You should talk with your lawyer and make sure that you are comfortable with your doctors’ care and treatment. As well as the documentation that is required to assist you and your injury case.
If you need help on how to find a doctor after a car accident for specific injuries, remember to turn to specialists. Not your primary care physician.
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