Should an attorney send their personal injury client to a doctor?
The response given is usually, “Why would an attorney have anything to do with sending a client to a doctor? If the client was truly injured they would find their own doctor.” This is not always true.
Many times, clients come to an attorney after an accident where they may have gone to an emergency room. After a client seeks initial treatment, they often do not know what to do next or, if they do know, they are often left with few options. Many clients cannot afford to do follow up care because they may not have health insurance or they may not be able to afford self-pay care. Many times clients are not sure what their next steps are.
The next thing I often hear is, “Well why can’t the hospital refer them to a doctor?” The answer to this question is that the hospital will likely refer them to another doctor, but the problem is often that the doctor they are referring them to will ask for payment up front and/or the doctor is often unfamiliar with personal injury claims. Attorneys who deal with personal injury are familiar with doctors who will agree to see patients and accept payment by way of a lien on the settlement proceeds. In personal injury, it is common practice for doctors to treat patients without an upfront payment because the doctors understand that many people cannot afford the treatment they need because they have not received compensation yet.
For example, a client may have been in a car accident where they sustain lacerations on their face. In the emergency room they may get stitches, but are left with scars on their face and they may not know what else can be done. The hospital may refer them to a plastic surgeon, but the client cannot afford them or that plastic surgeon may not document anything about the permanency of the scar. In this situation an attorney may be able to send them to a plastic surgeon who is familiar with personal injury claims so they will properly document the medical records.
Another example may be a client who was in an accident where they sustained spine injuries. The doctor at the hospital may prescribe them pain medication and send them on their way. The client may not know they have options and unfortunately, many times the client will never follow up and they will end up just dealing with pain and discomfort. In this situation an attorney may be able to send the client to an orthopedic surgeon to fix the underlying issue so the client can live pain free and not have to deal with discomfort.
Attorneys can send clients to doctors who understand the settlement and litigation process. This is important because insurance companies evaluate medical records when they evaluate claims. Doctors who are familiar with personal injury can often increase the value of a claim because they make sure to include all necessary documentation to solidify their findings.
While in a perfect world most attorneys would prefer not to have to send clients to doctors the reality is that people who seek treatment with doctors unfamiliar with this area of law are often placed at a disadvantage because the insurance companies will devalue their claim because of insufficient documentation of the injury.
If you have any questions regarding seeking treatment stemming from a personal injury case please call our law office and we would be happy to discuss your options. Many personal injury cases have a statute of limitations of four years. All consultations regarding personal injury are free.