I have represented over a thousand people in Lakeland car accident cases over the years, and one thing I see people screw up over and over again is how they deal with their healthcare providers following a traffic crash.
1 – Tell your doctor about all your problems, not just the primary complaint
The first thing that I see happen over and over again is when the patient seeks treatment and focuses only on their primary complaint. A seemingly obvious example is if you have a broken arm and go to the emergency room with a bone sticking out of your arm. That is the main thing you will be concerned about, and you’re going to want to get it fixed. The insurance companies take advantage of people who forget to mention other injuries that may not be as immediately noticeable. For instance, you may also be experiencing neck pain that you don’t mention because your initial concern is the most obvious injury. Often times that bone heals, but the neck injury that you neglected to seek treatment for maybe the reason you are unable to work for the rest of your life. When you go to the emergency room complaining about that bone sticking out of your arm, and the healthcare providers document that, but they don’t document the fact that your neck hurts, the insurance company will hold it against you. So the next time you see a healthcare provider two or three weeks later for a follow-up, you mention that your neck has been hurting. The defense lawyers and the insurance company are going to be screaming on the top of the hill, saying, “Wow, their neck didn’t hurt before!”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in trial and heard defense lawyers say, “If you hit your thumb with a hammer it hurts immediately; it doesn’t hurt a couple of weeks later.” The very simple way to deal with this is to be sure that when you go see your healthcare provider the first time, every time, that you tell them every part of your body that you have discomfort. If it gets better, that’s amazing, and you can move on. But if it doesn’t get better, then it is documented. That’s super important.
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2 – Tell your doctor if you have prior injuries
The second thing people get wrong when they see their healthcare providers after a Lakeland car accident is they don’t tell their doctor about their prior problems. Your doctors must have a full and complete history of all the issues you’ve had from a health perspective before. This is especially true if you’ve had prior back, neck pain, or anything similar to what you’re complaining of. The healthcare provider can then use that history to exclude the possibility that your current problems are related to the fact that you fell off a balcony in 1982 on spring break, versus the fact that you got hit by a Mack truck.
3 – Provide your PIP and health insurance information
The third mistake I see people make when they see a healthcare provider following a traffic crash is not giving their health care provider their insurance information. When you’ve been involved in a traffic crash, you need to give your health care providers both your personal injury protection coverage, that’s your auto coverage, and you need to give them your health insurance coverage. A lot of my clients object to this, thinking, “Wow, somebody else hit me, I shouldn’t have to usemy health insurance ormy auto coverage!”. In Florida, we have something we refer to as a “no-fault” system for personal injury protection. It is your auto insurance that pays first. After your auto insurance pays, it is up to your health insurance to pay for your medical needs. After that, be sure you provide this information to your medical provider so they can bill accordingly. It is super important, and it helps lawyers, like me, get my clients more money in their pockets after the case is settled.
4 – Tell ALL your doctors about your injuries
The fourth thing people screw up when they see their healthcare providers following a Lakeland car accident is they assume their doctor is there to only treat one thing. If you’re seeing a chiropractor for your neck and back, and then go see your primary care provider, you should tell them about everything. Don’t assume your chiropractor is the one treating you, so your primary care provider doesn’t need to know about it. All of your health care providers must know what kind of treatment you’re getting, how active it is, who’s giving it to you, and when you’re getting it, especially if you’re getting medication. If you compartmentalize this and don’t tell your primary care provider that you’re seeing a chiropractor, the defense lawyers will make a big deal of that if you ever have to go to trial. They will tell the jury that it must not be a big deal because you didn’t bother to tell your own doctor about the fact you were in a car crash. I’ve seen this play out over and over again, and for whatever reason, people compartmentalize what they’re going through. Tell all your health care providers about your medical needs.
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5 – Don’t talk law with your doctor; give them a history of the crash but don’t talk about your lawsuit
The fifth thing I see people screw up when they go see their healthcare provider following a car crash case is that they want to talk to their doctors about their case. Your doctor is not interested in talking to you about your car crash case. Your doctor is there to try to help you feel better, help you recover, and to get back to the “you” that you used to be before the car crash. So, don’t talk to your doctor about your intentions to bring a claim, don’t talk to your doctor about coverage. This is really none of their business. You should be talking to your lawyer about this, so try to be sure you separate those things. A lot of doctors hear people talk about this stuff and they won’t have anything to do with a car crash case, because they’ll run for the hills when they think they’re going to get asked questions by a bunch of lawyers. And who could blame them? So tell your doctors about what happened to you, give them a history of what you’ve been through. You don’t need to talk to them about the fact that you’re going to sue somebody or that you’re going to get money for your accident. That’s ridiculous. Let them focus on treating you and getting you back to “you,” and not worry about litigation, lawyers, and things like that.
I really hope this helps you avoid the pitfalls that people sometimes stumble into following a car crash here in Florida. If you have questions about your case, give us a buzz at 1-800-ASK-DAVE, we’re here to help!