A person's car accident injury case begins the moment after the accident. Everything they say and do or fail to say or do is being documented and scrutinized for inconsistencies and for information that can be used against them. The medical records generated by the doctors that the victim sees are the single most important source of information about the person’s medical history, injuries, pain level, job restrictions, and effect on their life. Doctors and their staff are in the profession to assess and treat injuries. Their medical records document what their exam shows and what THEY see and hear. Doctors do not know or care about the legal implications of their exam and the effect on your case. What a doctor puts in their medical records or fails to put in their medical records can make or break your case. Therefore, it is not only crucial to avoid doing or saying things that will hurt your case, but it is important to give the doctor the necessary information to document your injuries and the effects on your case. The following is a list of the top TEN things an accident victim needs to tell their doctor during their visits. Some items on this list may need to be relayed at every appointment. This is my general list and it obviously can change from case to case. If you are a victim of a car accident, you should seek legal advice from an experienced car accident lawyer. If you don’t have one, call Rue & Ziffra.
The medical history that you give your doctor is crucial. If you fail to disclose ALL prior accidents, the insurance company will say that you are not being truthful and are hiding your past in order to pull the wool over the jury’s eyes. This devastating defense can cut your credibility to pieces. You must disclose ALL prior car accidents, regardless of who is at fault, when it happened or whether or not you were injured. If there was any type of insurance claim brought by anyone, the car accident will be in the insurance company’s database and they will find it.
Any injury that you sustained regardless of how or when it occurred, must be disclosed to your doctor. The doctor’s opinions are based on what you tell them. For example, a doctor’s opinion can be called into doubt if you fail to disclose a prior injury to your neck and you are now claiming you have sustained a neck injury.
Having a prior injury, in many ways, makes it easier to prove that you have a permanent injury from an accident. If a portion of your body is injured, it is more susceptible to being injured again. So don’t hide your prior injuries, tell the doctor about everything. You must be honest to maintain your credibility.
If you fail to disclose a prior injury to your neck, and you are claiming a neck injury now... if the doctor fails to know anything about the prior injury, all of his opinions will be called into doubt.
How the accident happened is vital to determine the severity of your injury. Different types of accidents can injure different areas of the body. In addition, different vehicle safety devices are only effective for certain types of accidents. If the accident is very severe, the doctor needs to know and it needs to be documented. An insurance adjuster and ultimately a jury will see your medical records. The bigger the impact, the easier for a jury to believe that you were permanently injured. Also, it is much easier for a doctor to believe your complaints about pain if he knows the accident was significant. It is important to note that seatbelts, airbags, and headrests provide little, if any, protection from a side-impact and should be documented. In addition, if your head is turned sideways when you get hit from behind, your neck's normal range of motion is restricted and it's easier to injure your neck muscles. So, if your head is turned to look out the window or talk to a passenger, tell the doctor.
It is important to tell the doctor about all your injuries, regardless of how minor. If you fail to tell the doctor about an injured portion of your body, it does not exist. Even if the injury or pain is minimal, tell your doctor. Some injuries can get worse with time instead of better and if you fail to tell your doctor early on, then it must not exist or it happened from something other than your accident. In addition, until your injuries have completely resolved or gotten back to the level they were at before your accident, you are not feeling ‘good.’
You can count on the fact, that every time you go and see a doctor for your injuries, you will be asked to rate your pain level on a scale of 1-10. This is a very difficult but important question. Your pain level will vary from day to day based on your level of activities. Keep in mind, if the doctor asks how bad your pain is, do not tell him it’s a 1 if it was a 5 yesterday. You have to put it in context and explain to the doctor how your pain level varies. If the pain scale is between a 1 and a 10, please do not say your pain is an eleven, it will completely blow your credibility. In fact, if you are walking and talking and not curled up on the floor, your pain should not be a ten, and if it is a ten, you should be on the way to the hospital, because something really bad is happening. A rating of 10 indicates that you are experiencing unimaginable pain.
A variety of injuries will require a variety of doctors. It is not uncommon for a car accident victim to see several different doctors for different types of injuries they have sustained. It is important to disclose to each of the doctors about the other doctors you are seeing and any other prescriptions you have been given. You do not want to have duplicate medications, treatments, or contradict what another doctor is doing. If you fail to disclose this to your doctor, the insurance company will allege that you are not being honest. That some of your treatment is unnecessary or in the case of multiple prescriptions, that you are a drug seeker and not really hurt.
In Florida, any injury that you sustain that could have been prevented by wearing a seatbelt is non-compensable. It is important to tell your doctors that you were wearing your seatbelt and to take pictures of any scrapes or bruises on your lap or chest to verify that you were wearing your seatbelt. In addition, if the impact of the collision was significant enough to cause your airbags to deploy, make sure you tell your doctors. All of your medical reports will be submitted into evidence and documentation about airbag deployment demonstrates to a jury how significant the impact was.
While it is vital that you tell a doctor about your prior history and the injuries you sustained from an accident you were in, the effect of these injuries on your life composes a large portion of the damages that you are entitled to. Telling your doctor about the effect of your injuries on your life is an important way to document these effects. Testimony from a doctor about the effects of your injuries on your life is way more powerful than testimony from yourself. Doctors are experts, independent, and more credible. If you moved to Florida to retire and bought a home on a golf course because you planned on playing golf every day, a torn rotator cuff can change your entire life and retirement plans. If your doctor does not know about these plans and the effects of your injuries on them, they cannot document them.
Most people are not retired and continue to work to support themselves and their families. Whether you drive a dump truck, are a carpenter, or stand behind a bar serving drinks for long periods of time, different injuries can have a devastating impact on your income and your ability to work. You are entitled to past lost wages that you incur because of someone else’s negligence. You are also entitled to compensation for loss of earning capacity for any future lost wages that you can prove. Proving these future lost wages is key. That is why you need to tell your doctor what you do for a living. What physical attributes that you need to perform for your job and how your injuries are affecting your ability to perform your job.
Your injuries not only affect your life, but they affect the lives of everyone around you. If you are unable to help with the children or the chores, your loved ones have to pick up the slack. If you cannot do your common activities with your loved one or your kids, they suffer. In Florida, your spouse and children have claims for your injuries if you are unable to perform your normal activities. It is important again, to document these effects. The best way is by telling your doctor so they can document them.
In summary, tell your doctor as much as you can about the injuries that you have sustained and how they affect your life. Do not exaggerate and do not expect the doctor to write a novel. However, tell the doctor about all your injuries and how they have impacted your life. Hit the high points and the most important points so that the doctor has an idea of the damage and documents it.