If you don’t like your doctor or don’t feel he or she is in your corner, get rid of that doctor now! If your doctor doesn’t give you respect or is rude and arrogant, the chances are that he or she won’t be helpful to you when writing notes about you to put in your file after you leave the office or when doing a deposition if needed later.
In some cases I’ve handled, plaintiffs say they are hurt, but the jury is reluctant to believe them unless they see X-rays of the metal plates they’ve had installed on their spines for instance. And even after surgery, an injured person might be suffering from chronic pain. If the case cannot be settled and is ultimately tried before a jury, your doctor will have a lot of influence on the jury’s decision.
I’ve found that most doctors are very helpful; they have great hearts and want to help their patients. But some of them get jaded; they may have had one too many patients who fake pain just to get prescriptions for pain pills for their recreation or to sell. They might take a hard stand against you even though you are doing everything possible to get well and back on your feet.
And some doctors serve on worker’s compensation insurance panels and have gotten used to treating patients with the best interests of the insurance companies, not their patients, as their goal.
Doctors can do several things that could hurt if not kill your case.
- They can write in your notes that you’re faking your claims or they think you are. Always be completely honest with your doctors. They will be on high alert for patients faking injuries.
- A doctor might not believe (or even care if) you have any permanent pain from your injuries. Some doctors don’t think anyone could have permanent lifelong pain due to any neck injury, for example. This is wrong, and there is science to prove them wrong. But this matters because his or her opinions would be given great weight in court. If you’ve had neck pain consistently despite treatment for over a year since your wreck, it will more than likely be some permanent injury. If your doctor doesn’t support you, you won’t get any credit for pain in the future; you might have to put up with it for the rest of your life, and a jury would not even be allowed to consider it because of your doctor’s testimony and attitude towards you.
- Your doctor might act as if your pain is no big deal, and if your case goes to court, a jury might be swayed to think that as well. Bad doctors are like bad influences or bad relationships—dump them now and protect yourself.
Takeaway: You need a doctor with whom you are comfortable and who supports you. If you don’t like your doctor, chances are he or she doesn’t like you. Dump that doctor now!
Another Mistake: Signing insurance adjusters’ forms and authorizations
Attorneys in Tennessee are ethically prohibited from making contact with potential clients for thirty days after they’ve been injured, but insurance companies don’t face that restriction; they can contact you immediately after a wreck, and they seize on this. They do so while you are unprotected and vulnerable to get information from you that will harm your case. They will tell you it’s just their policy to speak with you, record your statement, and get forms signed. They may also tell you they cannot go forward with your case until you let them record your statement. The may also tell you that if you don’t give them the recorded statement and a signed medical authorization form, they will have to close your case. This is not true.
While it may indeed be their policy, their policy is not the law. While they can close your claim with a click of a button, they can also open it right back up with the click of a button. Don’t let that scare you; it’s just a trick to pressure you. I’ve had the pleasure of making them reopen hundreds of claims they had closed, and they have paid my clients millions of dollars on such closed claims. Don’t fall for that bogus threat.
And never sign any medical authorization for an insurance company. They might promise to help you get all your medical bills and records together to “save you the trouble,” but they have a different reason for offering this “service.”
You probably don’t remember this when you first talked to the adjuster or when you gave him your recorded statement, but you were asked about any prior injuries you may have had in past auto wrecks, slips and falls, and so on, or past ER visits. They also asked you who your primary care (PCP) doctor was. They want your past medical information, which they can get if you sign a medical authorization, to try to deny your claim. If, say, you’re claiming a neck injury, they want to be able to order your previous medical records from your doctors to discover if you’ve ever complained of any neck pain before the accident that got you involved with them, but they won’t tell you that. The authorizations never have a statement that they are good only for records after the date of your injury. The authorizations are good for any time in your life since you’ve been born for any record you have ever had generated about you by any and every doctor. It’s a blanket permission form you just gave them from birth to present.
If insurance adjusters cannot deny your claim, they will seek to diminish the value of your claim by trying to say they found a prior neck injury complaint in your records from years ago. Even if that prior neck injury was completely healed, they’d use it against you.
If you don’t tell the adjuster about your prior treating doctors, please remember what I wrote about the Index System. They more than likely know all about your medical history or have access to it. This information is tied to your Social Security number, and that’s why they try to get yours early on. You don’t have to provide your Social Security number to them.
This is why with any claim, adjustment or legal issue, when it comes time to collect on your claim, they will not just settle, but they will also go the route in paying the money not all up front, but over time. This is how the insurance companies work and the annuity financial network companies work. This is why when you are offered a structured settlement and you are happy with the amount, don’t accept just yet as the payment terms can be over 20, 30 or even 40 years. Ask one simple question: “What is the present value of your offer?”. Seek offers from the the best companies and sell your structured settlement if you feel like this is the right decision to help with your financial crisis.
I can hear you say, “But John, I have nothing to hide!” That’s great. I don’t want any of my client’s hiding anything. Especially from me. In all my writings, blog posts, and YouTube videos, I stress that my clients must be honest about everything. But this is an adversarial system you unknowingly entered. They are out to gut you any way they can. You can be fair, but don’t give them ammunition to kill your case. This is where the insurance companies will get you if they have any chance to do so and find you’ve complained of or been treated for a similar condition in the past. Please stop helping them kill your case!
I once asked a woman under oath if she had ever had any neck pain in her life. She said no. I asked her repeatedly, and she repeatedly said no, she was certain. What we later found out was the insurance adjuster had used the medical authorization she had signed (before she had hired me, I assure you) to find out she had gone to a doctor twelve years earlier with complaints of “neck pain due to severe flu.” The defense brought this up to contradict her claim of never having suffered neck pain and positively beamed about it; it made her look like a liar.
Anyone who has ever battled the flu knows that it can cause aches and pains all over, including the neck. But there it was in black and white: “flu symptoms, headaches, hurts all over, c/o neck pain = severe.” You might not believe insurance companies and their minions try these tricks, but they do, and it works for them. And they keep doing it.
You probably don’t know what’s in your doctor’s notes, especially from years gone by, but the insurance companies will want to find out so they can make you look like a liar if they can even if it’s a matter of your having forgotten about something long in the past.