Think that medical issue is minor and you don’t have to report it to your doctor? Think the insurance company will compensate you for shoulder pain even though you never sought treatment for it? Think again. Insurance adjusters will use any gap in your medical record to deny you a fair settlement.
Personal injury lawsuits involve both legal and medical issues. While you can count on your lawyer to be your strongest advocate, Ohio personal injury cases are often decided on the merits of the patient’s medical record. An incomplete history of injuries and ailments can weaken an otherwise strong case. That’s why we encourage all our clients to be their own advocate and take charge of their health care.
Questions about health care in a personal injury case can be discussed with a Graham & Graham personal injury lawyer during a free consultation.
How to Create an Airtight Medical Record
Failure to recover maximum compensation for personal injuries can have long-term consequences for your health and finances. Even if your injuries appear to be minor, appearances can be deceiving. After any incident that causes you injury—whether it’s a car or truck crash, a slip and fall accident, a dog bite, or using an unsafe consumer product—do the right thing and get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Then, follow through on all doctor’s orders and appointments, and make sure to meticulously document everything.
- Photograph your injury.
- Keep copies your medical records.
- Show or tell others of your injury, who can stand as a witness.
- Jot down any changes in your quality of life that resulted from the injury, so you can quickly recall them.
The Initial Appointment
If you’re seriously injured, you may require emergency medical attention. You may even be transported to the hospital in an ambulance. But not requiring emergency care is not a sign that you don’t have very real injuries.
After any type of injury—no matter how minor it might seem at first—you should get checked out by a doctor. A thorough and timely medical evaluation ensures that your injuries are accurately diagnosed and that there is a clear, consistent history of treatment.
How late is too late for an initial appointment? While there’s no time limit for seeking medical treatment, the longer you delay, the more this will raise a red flag to the insurance company that your injuries aren’t as serious as you claim. Typically, you should not wait more than 48 – 72 hours to visit the doctor.
Simply going to the doctor is not enough. You must let them know everything that is bothering you so that this information makes it into the medical record, which is one of the most important pieces of evidence in a personal injury case. As far as the insurance company is concerned, if it isn’t in the record, it didn’t happen.
Following Through on Treatment
The initial doctor’s visit sets the stage for the rest of your treatment. Depending on the actual injuries you sustain, treatment can continue for weeks, months, and years. You might have to see specialists such as a chiropractor, a physical therapist, or a vocational rehabilitation doctor. You may be prescribed medicine, given an exercise regime to follow, or be recommended to a therapist for emotional and psychological trauma—to name just a few types of treatments.
Your doctors will decide what is best for a full medical recovery, but it is your responsibility to follow their orders. Don’t forget: The insurance company will try to find any excuse to deny, delay, or underpay your claim. Failure to stick to a regimen, no matter how minor the deviation, could be used as evidence that your pain and suffering are not as serious as you say they are. Our attorneys also recommend that you stay off of social media during the treatment period, since what you share online can and will be used against you.
Documenting Your Claim
Seeking initial treatment and sticking to your appointments limits opportunities for the insurance company to poke holes in your medical history. Beyond the official medical record, you can collect supporting documentation for not only your physical injuries, but also your emotional/psychological injuries and property damage. The following documentation can be useful for proving your personal injury-related losses:
- Medical care receipts, including for ambulance fees, hospital visits, surgery, rehabilitation, specialists, tests, in-home care, prescription medication, devices, and equipment
- Correspondences with medical professionals
- Records of medical travel-related expenses (e.g., gas station, hotel, rental car, and food receipts) and other out-of-pocket expenses
- Receipts for damaged property, such as vehicle repair bills
- Photos of your injuries, the accident scene, and property damage
- A “pain journal” that documents how you feel after an injury and during recovery, including your symptoms, pain levels, activities that have become difficult or impossible due to your injuries, and any required medications and therapies
Be meticulous in your record keeping. Don’t throw anything away, and keep it all in one place. As soon as you get a new piece of evidence, add it to the collection so you don’t lose it. Every receipt, bill, email, record, photo, and journal entry could prove to be useful when presenting your case to the insurance company or the court.
Get Help From a Zanesville Personal Injury Attorney
Dealing with an injury claim can be overwhelming, but help is available from Graham & Graham’s personal injury attorneys. We handle all insurance company communications on your behalf, conduct our own investigation, negotiate a fair settlement, and take your case to court if needed. We also help you to be your own advocate and avoid insurance company tricks.
Speaking with an attorney has no cost and no risk, and could make a crucial difference in your case. Call 1-800-621-8585 or send us a message.