This is one of the most common questions we get from new clients and we understand where it comes from. You’ve just been through an unexpected accident. You’re in shock and don’t know what to do next. Do you go to the hospital? Can you wait a few days and go to your family doctor instead? How do you get your car fixed? Should you call your insurance company? Should you try to resolve the matter without going through their insurance company? Do you need an attorney? If so, which one can you trust? It’s a lot of uncertainty to wade through and the last thing you want is to do anything that could hurt your case.
The answer may be surprising, but there is no perfect formula. You should see whichever doctor necessary in order to get the medical treatment you need to recover from your injuries.
Keep in mind that everyone’s case is different. Your injuries and the details of the accident you experienced will be different from your brother’s, sister’s or neighbor’s case. Even people in the same accident have different cases that will need to be treated differently. Additionally, any pre-existing injuries or prior accidents will certainly contribute to the differences in cases.
If someone else caused your injuries and you have a personal injury attorney, then you have options when it comes to getting the medical care you need.
First, you can choose to use your own health insurance for treatment. If you choose to do so, then you will be responsible for co-pays and any other out of pocket expenses upfront. Keep a list of your expenses, so your attorney can make sure the insurance company reimburses you. Most health insurance plans have a right of subrogation. That means that they are entitled to be reimbursed from the other driver for the amount they paid on your behalf. Don’t worry! Your attorney should deal with the subrogation claim so you don’t have to. If you have questions about it, make sure to confirm that they’re handing it for you.
If you don’t have health insurance or simply choose not to use it, then it may be possible to treat with medical providers under a Letter of Protection. A letter of protection is simply a contract between your attorney and the medical provider wherein the provider agrees to treat you without taking payment until your case closes. In return, your attorney promises not to release settlement funds until their bill has been paid. With a letter of protection, the medical providers will be paid directly from the settlement instead of requiring you to pay out of pocket as you treat. Most attorneys have their own network of providers that work under a letter of protection. We suggest you talk to your attorney or an attorney you’re thinking of hiring to make sure they can connect you with a provider you need to move forward.
Additionally, you may need further testing to rule our concussions or broken bones. Don’t be intimidated by the need for further testing. Many facilities will either work with you for affordable options or will work with your attorney to accept payment at settlement.
Of course, you’re welcome to continue going to your own providers if you would prefer. If you were already seeing a chiropractor, you can see them after your accident. If you have a personal doctor and want to have him check you out instead of going right to the hospital, that’s perfectly fine. It’s your body and you’re the one who has to make the decision on how to seek treatment for it!
Regardless of your financial situation, whether you have health insurance or a regular doctor you already see, you may have options to get in and see someone. When you receive medical care, it’s absolutely vital you communicate all of your symptoms and concerns to your doctors from the start. This will help keep your treatment and injuries documented so that there’s a record for what you’re experiencing, and it helps the doctors know the tests and treatment plan necessary to help you heal. Be patient! Recovering from an accident is crucial to your long-term health.
When you are injured because of someone else's negligence - either through a car wreck, trucking accident, slip and fall or dog bite - the law states that you’re entitled to be compensated for your damages and put at the same position you were in right before the wreck. In addition to being compensated for your physical injuries and treatment, you’re also entitled to compensation for anxiety, depression, PTSD or other emotional trauma caused by the crash. If you choose to seek recovery for emotional trauma, be advised that those medical records need to be part of your case. If you’re worried about your privacy, be sure to talk to your attorney about ways to protect yourself.
When in doubt, consult your lawyer about an illness or injury that you believe arose out of the accident. More often than not, whether or not it can be included in your case depends on the medical records and whether the doctor opines that your complaints were caused or aggravated by the crash.
A preexisting condition is an injury or illness that you had before the wreck or accident. The insurance company and/or defendant is not responsible for paying for your injuries and illnesses that you previously sustained. They are, however, responsible for compensating you for any aggravation to those injuries or illnesses. For example, if you had previously broken your arm but a car accident worsened the break, requiring surgery, then the insurance company would be responsible for that aggravation but not the initial break.
It’s important to know that if you file a lawsuit, many of your preexisting conditions will become relevant information. As such, the defense attorney will have the right to access your medical bills and records from the preexisting conditions. This may feel like a personal attack, but it’s a part of their job. They need to see what your conditions were like before the wreck in order to see how they were changed because of your new injuries.
Every case is different, and the insurance company will do anything they can to poke holes in yours. Whether you go to the hospital right away or wait a few days to see if the pain resolves on its own, they’ll argue that you did the wrong thing. Don’t let them fool you! If you stay consistent, diligent, and focused on your recovery, then everything should be well supported and ready for your attorney to fight on your behalf.
If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask! It’s your case and your body. Your attorney will guide you through the process, but you’re in charge!