Excerpt From Richard Noll’s Book, The Dirty Dozen; 12 Mistakes To Avoid In Your New York Accident Case
Mistake #5: Receiving excessive, unnecessary and useless medical treatments and diagnostic tests.
When you’ve been the victim of a personal injury, often you will be brought to a hospital for emergency care; to make certain that you are not in any danger. After you have been discharged, you then begin regular treatment with a medical professional for your specific injuries. If you do not need further medical care, it is likely that your injury does not warrant hiring a personal injury attorney.
Whether the doctor you see after your hospital discharge is your primary care physician, a chiropractor, a board certified specialist referred by the hospital or your PCP, or a local trauma clinic, all of these medical providers will perform the same initial assessment of your condition. After culling all of your biological and insurance information, he or she will take a history of what happened to you in the accident and note whatever pain your are experiencing. He or she also will take a prior medical history which is crucial in determining whether your pain is or is not a result of your accident. The doctor then will perform an initial physical examination, touching you and asking you to move in specific ways.
Depending upon your complaints of pain and the results of the initial physical examination, the doctor may refer you for preliminary diagnostic testing such as x-rays. All of this information assists the doctor in forming a working diagnosis of your condition. That working diagnosis forms the basis for future diagnostic studies as well as a plan for your treatment and care.
Problems can arise when your medical provider is more interested in performing medical services and diagnostic studies with which to bill the insurance carrier than he or she is in considering what treatment you really need. You might ask, ‘how can this hurt my personal injury claim? After all, the higher the medical bills, the more serious your injury must be, right? Well, no.
In fact, today we live in an age where the typical juror is naturally suspicious of personal injury claims to begin with. They may even sit in the jury box worrying about how claims like yours will adversely affect their insurance premiums and their property taxes. Often, they believe that we should all look out for ourselves, and not ‘blame the other guy’ for our injuries, regardless of how severe.
When this type of juror perceives that doctors and lawyers are claiming that every ache and pain experienced by their client is the result of this one particular accident, or that doctors are performing tests and treatment that may not be relevant or helpful to the patient’s care, the juror begins to doubt their professional credibility. If your doctor loses credibility, so do you, and so does your personal injury case.
Furthermore, excessive testing and treatment is more difficult for you. Not only will the process take up enormous blocks of your time, but it also be harder for you to remember all of the tests and treatments you have had when it comes time for you to testify. You should ask yourself this question: if, during your accident you have injured your neck, right shoulder and right elbow, why would a reputable physician x-ray your left ankle or refer to for an MRI of your lower back? If it doesn’t make sense to you, it certainly will not make sense to a jury or an insurance carrier.
If a doctor does not require the results of a particular test when developing your course of treatment, then why should you spend the time and (no doubt) stress getting it done? And, why should you or your insurance carrier pay for it?
Now, I would suspect that everyone experiences anxiety during and after a serious accident of any kind. However, if, after a time you have gotten over the anxiety, fear or depression, does it really make sense to treat with a psychiatrist or psychologist every week for six to 12 months? Not really. In fact, this excessive treatment could look to a juror and an insurance carrier as your attempt to “build a case” where there is none, even if you have been seriously injured.
Remember also that at your trial (should you have one), your doctors may be called to testify on your behalf. They will be asked to describe as well as justify every procedure they have ordered for you; every specialist referral will be scrutinized. If your doctors cannot adequately explain the reasons for their decisions and treatment plans, their credibility will be called into serious question. Woe to the doctor who cannot explain how he or she was paid thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars for tests and treatment that he or she did not have a sound basis for ordering.
As I have said many times before, your personal injury case is as good or as bad as your medical records, your doctors’ narratives, and the treatment that your doctors prescribe for you.