In a nutshell, I want to give you two commandments when going to see your doctor.
- Be accurate & honest when describing what happened and how you feel.
- Be thorough & complete when describing how you feel and limitations you have.
In personal injury cases, it is vital that your medical record be accurate. Sounds simple, but it is not.
Why this Matters
Here is the deal:
Every legal process is an attempt to get to the truth. But the law cannot always trust people to tell the truth – even when they are on the witness stand.
Sometimes people will get things wrong innocently, or get confused about details. Sometimes people are just poor historians and don’t explain things well. Sometimes people stretch the truth or even flat out lie.
So, lawyers and Judges have come up with some shortcuts to find “the truth” during litigation.
One of those shortcuts is an extreme reliance on statements contained in your medical records.
The theory is this: Someone might lie to their lawyer, the court, or almost anyone else – but they won’t lie to their doctor.
The law assumes that you tell the complete truth when seeking medical care because you won’t cause harm to yourself when seeking to feel better. You won’t mislead your doctor because then he or she cannot treat you properly.
The law treats statements you make when seeking medical care like Gospel truth!
I agree with you. This theory is highly suspect!
First of all, people lie to their doctor all the time! (Does your doctor know how much you really exercise?) Second of all, people just sometimes fail to explain things correctly. Third, doctors are sometimes terrible at transcribing what a patient tells them. I have seen many obvious mistakes in medical records.
Whether the theory is true or not, it is one of those shortcuts relied on by lawyers and Judges, and it will therefore have a dramatic effect on your legal case.
Your First Visit to the Doctor
The first time you go see a doctor after an injury, he or she will ask you what happened to cause the injury.
This is critically important time!
You must realize that a record is being made now – one that will make or break your case.
Be honest, accurate, and thorough when you tell the doctor how your injury occurred. He or she will write it all down. Insurance adjusters, lawyers, and Judges will rely on it for the rest of the case.
Remember to be thorough too – not just accurate.
Tell the doctor every ache and pain you suffered in the accident, no matter how small. If it grows into a major issue later, and you failed to mention it on your first visit, I guarantee that you will fight the insurance company over it!
Subsequent Visits to the Doctor
The first thing the doctor asks at every visit is “how do you feel?”
Again, this is critically important! You must be thorough and accurate in describing your pain.
Do NOT minimize your pain.
Many people tend to minimize their pain and the effect of their injuries. They say “I’m fine” when they aren’t really fine at all. (Men, I am especially looking at you!)
Don’t do this!
Be detailed in your explanations of how you feel, and how your injury affects your life. Tell the doctor about things you cannot do and any limitations in your activities.
But there is a flip side.
Do not exaggerate your pain either. Nobody in the legal process (especially Judges and Juries) like someone who exaggerates their pain or physical limitations.
Just be 100% honest and accurate. It will negatively impact your legal case if you are not 100% honest.
Your mother was right all along – honesty is the best policy.
Be accurate. Be thorough. Those are the two commandments of going to see the doctor after you have suffered an injury.
Call me if you have any questions about anything in this post, or anything about your medical care related to your accident.
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