If you are injured due to someone else’s negligence, you have the legal right to be compensated for your financial losses, medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering. Of course, financial compensation can and should be a significant consideration. However, the primary consideration after an injury should be your recovery. Always.
That begins at the beginning – when you are first examined by a medical professional in the Emergency Room. Typically, ER physicians are quite thorough in their examinations, particularly when it comes to potential brain injuries. However, when an ER doctor discharges you, she will give you specific “discharge instructions,” which may include R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, elevation); return to the hospital, if necessary; and/or follow up with your own physician. (You should always follow up with your own physician.)
Should you require treatment for your injuries, you must take it seriously – you must follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. That means, if your doctor prescribes diagnostic tests such as x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, EMG’s, you must comply. The results of these tests will help your doctor detect specific injuries you’ve suffered, and determine a course of treatment. There are many instances where injured patients are left with conditions that are not detectable by examination only. Ignoring medical advice could be perilous.
Often, even if your injuries are not life threatening, they could be life altering. Soft tissue injuries such as herniated discs, for example, may worsen over time if not addressed in a timely manner. That sometimes means that your treatment regimen will include trigger point injections, epidural steroid injections, or even more invasive treatment such as surgery.
Following your doctor’s advice will most certainly help you to recover. It also has the added benefit of helping your personal injury case. Conversely, failing to follow your doctor’s advice will have a negative impact on your personal injury case.
Your entire treatment record, every single thing your doctors advise you to do and how they have treated you, will be evidence for your attorney. It also will be read and used by the opposing attorney. That means if you have not followed your doctor’s instructions; if you have not gone for that MRI, the opposing attorney could use that as evidence that you are not that badly injured.
The entire system including judges, juries and insurance companies already are skeptical of personal injury claims. When you do not follow a treatment regimen, they may assume that you must have fully recovered. The law in New York has been developed to the illogical extreme that if you stop your medical care, the defense can argue that you do not have a permanent condition.
Failing to follow medical advice can also allow opposing attorney to argue, at trial (supported by an instruction on the law by the judge) that you failed to mitigate your damages, meaning that you did not take whatever reasonable medical steps were available to you to improve your condition.
For the sake of your health, and for the sake of recovering financial compensation that you well may need, listen to your doctor. Follow your doctor’s advice.