Anatomy of a Civil Case — Part II

Part II – Getting Medical Care:  Being your own Advocate

In our second edition of “The Anatomy of a Case” series, we’re going to talk about the most important thing after an injury……getting better.  And that has nothing to do with your case, you just want to get yourself back to normal, or as close to normal as the doctors can make you.

But getting medical care is also critical to a personal injury claim.  Here’s why:

  1. To fully understand your case value:  Most people have never gone through a personal injury claim before.  And they often ask what we think their case is worth.  The honest answer, particularly early on, is that we often don’t have the first clue.  It’s impossible to evaluate the full value of a claim without knowing the full extent of the injury and the extent to which the client recovers.
  2. To not sell yourself short:  Building off of the last point, as a general rule, we don’t want clients to settle their case until they reach a level maximum medical improvement.  Why?  Let’s say you’ve been in a moderate crash and you’re having neck pain.  You had an ER visit, the doctors prescribed muscle relaxers, and now you’re going through a round of physical therapy.  Then the insurance adjuster called and offered you $15,000.  A lot of people might take that assuming that they’re going to heal up well and everything will be fine soon.  That’s where an attorney will tell you to tap the brakes and wait and see.  We’ve had clients in this exact position who did NOT get better as expected, kept treating with little effect, and ended up with cervical fusion surgery.  That is indicative of a major injury worth way more than the first offer.  Unfortunately, the person who took that original offer assuming they’d get better, is left with next to no compensation compared with what they’ll live with their entire lives.

So how do you go about being your own advocate when it comes to getting medical care for your injuries?

  1. Seek treatment: Insurance companies (and litigation in general) are paper-trail driven businesses.  If you don’t go to the doctor, there is no record of your injuries to rely on.  That is true when you’re asking an adjuster you’ve never met to place a value on your injuries.  It’s also true for a jury.  No attorney would feel comfortable presenting an injury case to a jury without any evidence to support the claim.  Juries are hard enough on plaintiffs as it is.  Put yourself in the defense attorney’s shoes, you’d obviously argue that if the person was really hurt, they’d have gone to the doctor.  That’s a hard argument to counter and your jury award isn’t likely to be very much without documented treatment.
  2. Be a good patient:  Look, most people don’t like to go to the doctor.  Especially after something like a car accident where this is all forced on you.  It’s critical to tell your doctor how you’re feeling in a complete & honest way.  They can’t fix you if they don’t treat you, and they can’t treat you without knowing how you’re feeling, and they can’t know how you’re feeling if you don’t tell them.  So be a good patient.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion:  We naturally want to trust our doctors, but there’s no guarantee that an individual doctor’s plan will be effective for you or that you’ll be comfortable with it.  Not comfortable with surgery?  Get a second opinion.  Don’t to go through another round of physical therapy?  Get a second opinion.  Don’t feel like your doctor is giving your injury the proper attention?  Get a second opinion.

Remember, the number one goal after getting injured is to get better.  At the end of the day, being your own advocate is the best way to make that happen.  It’s good for your health and it makes for a stronger case if you decide to make an injury claim. 

Be safe out there!