Getting the Wrong Medical Care

 The key component to your bodily injury case is the amount and type of your medical care.  If you get the wrong care, it can wreck or diminish the value of your case.  How do you know what is the proper medical care? Hopefully, you haven’t been in any other wrecks, so you would not have a lot of experience dealing with back and neck pain.  Also, most people have great respect for medical doctors.  We’re taught that we should listen to doctors and do what they say.

    On many occasions, a family care doctor is not a back specialist.  Many times he or she might feel that your back and neck may very well get better on their own and that you might not need any further care.  Therefore, if you go see your family doctor, he may prescribe 30 days’ worth of medicine and tell you not to come back, or to come back if you don’t feel better then.  This is devastating to a personal injury case.  This is 30 days of no treatment when you were saying you were in significant pain and needed more care.  Most juries feel that if you were hurt, you would have gone back to the doctor.  Sometimes you were just following the doctor’s orders, and were going to go see him after the end of the 30 days.  If you’re hurt, go to the doctor.  If you see a family care doctor and he gives you medicine and says "come back if you don’t feel better" and a week goes by and you don’t feel better, go back to the doctor so he can recommend physical therapy. 

     Another issue that comes up is when medical care is not making you better.  If you’re seeing a physical therapy or a chiropractor, and 90 to 120 days go by and you don’t feel better, you need to do something different.  Whether that means getting an MRI to look for a bulging or herniated disc, or going to a pain management doctor, will depend on the specific facts of your case.  However, juries do not expect you to continue doing the same thing over and over for months at a time.  If it’s been over four months and you don’t feel better, you need to talk to somebody about changing your care.  Sometimes this can be talking to your physical therapist or chiropractor and changing specific aspects of the treatment.  That’s perfectly fine.  Maybe they can add something.  Maybe they can do something different that will make your symptoms better.  If they can, that’s great.  If they cannot treat you, though, after 120 days, they should refer you to someone who can: an orthopedic specialist who treats chronic neck and back injuries; a pain specialist who treats people with injuries that are not healing; a neurologist who can order an MRI to look for herniated or bulging discs.  There are many different types of treatment for a case where injuries are more severe than standard, soft tissue injuries.

    Another issue is when you have a broken bone and you don’t have any health insurance, you may not get exactly the right care you need.  You need to know whether the bone is healing correctly and whether you need surgery or not.  The only way to do this is to see an orthopedist who treats bone injuries.  If you have a complicated fracture and you see your family care doctor, he or she is not going to be able to give you the proper advice on whether or not you need surgery.

    If you have a scar, either from a cut or a burn related to your bodily injury claim, you should see a plastic surgeon, who can do a scar evaluation.  A picture alone is not sufficient to document what it costs and the severity of a scar.  When you go to court and you talk about a scar, a question many juries will ask is, is it repairable?  If you have not seen a plastic surgeon, you will not be able to answer that question.

    In a standard case where you just hurt your back and neck or have muscle strain, your normal care may be an emergency room visit, a visit with your family care doctor, and then treatment through either a chiropractor or a physical therapist.  This is typical medical treatment for these types of injuries.  If you have pain that radiates down into your arms or legs, a referral to a neurologist who can order an MRI would also be typical.  Any time your pain and treatment lasts over 120 days, you are stepping out of that normal pattern to more complicated medical care.  You need to discuss with your doctor how to make you better.

Shane Smith
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Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia

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