Your personal injury and accident lawyer and law firm should talk with you about your injuries and make certain that you take the advice of medical professionals. We are not certified to give medical advice or practice medicine. However, over the years, we have learned how important it is that you receive the right treatment. We call it shepherding the medical treatment. Basically meaning that, as early as possible, we are going to do our best to become actively involved in your medical treatment. We are going to be following-up with you on a routine basis regarding your treatment, diagnosis, prognosis, and if necessary and appropriate, guide you to other treatment providers. This is in your best interest, medically and legally, especially in cases where there are severe and permanent injuries. Under Alabama law, injuries correlate into damages which have to be demonstrated and proven.
We have had cases over the years where clients did not follow up with their treatment, and it hurt their health and the value of their case. For instance, years ago we had a client that suffered a leg injury. We reviewed her medical records and the treatment that she received up to that point and helped her understand why she had been referred to a physical therapy clinic. We strongly suggested that it would be in her best interest to take the advice of her physician, start the physical therapy, and to keep us posted on her progress. Not long after that, she was scheduled for a follow-up meeting. We met with her in the office and learned that she had not been going to her physical therapy. After our meeting, she realized the importance of this therapy, both medically and legally. Therefore, she began her physical therapy. However, it did create a gap in treatment, which is a period of time between treatment. In this instance, the insurance company is going to look at that and say that your lack of treatment must have been due to the fact you were not hurting; therefore, you were not severely injured. Even a small gap in treatment gives them the potential defense that something else may have caused or contributed to your injury or that you were not really hurt.
David and I have represented clients over the years with neck and back injuries that followed-up with their treatment and care; however, these clients continued to have problems, including pain and stiffness which can be debilitating. In some of those cases, we helped them to make contact with the right neurosurgeon and chiropractor for evaluation and treatment, which helped them medically and legally. If they had not followed-up and received that care immediately, it would have cost them money and impeded their healing process. It is a good practice to rely on a group of medical providers from neurosurgeons, neurologists, psychiatrists, counselors, chiropractors, orthopedists, physical therapists and massage therapists that can help you in these circumstances. Often times, just like in any other medical situation, it makes sense to go out and get a second opinion with the help of a specialist and be proactive regarding your medical treatment.
There are many great doctors in this region. However, an emergency room doctor, an orthopedic doctor or a general practice family doctor may not be in a position to diagnose and treat a traumatic brain injury or some other injury outside their area of expertise. We had a client that was treated in the emergency room on two different occasions, as a result of a head-on automobile collision. When we met with him, we developed a gut feeling there was something not right with this young man. We made arrangements to have him evaluated by a psychiatrist, who ultimately diagnosed him with a very serious brain injury, as a result of the wreck.
Again, there are many fine doctors and medical providers. When you have a choice, we want to make sure that you go to someone who is going to look out for your best interests, both medically and legally. When some doctors find out it is a potential personal injury accident type case, which might result in litigation and depositions, they may not go above and beyond to help in dealing with the insurance company and in litigation. Some doctors and medical professionals are great in their field, but they will not give a favorable deposition. Therefore, when you have a choice, you want seek treatment from professionals that excel in their discipline and in a deposition.
In order to claim medical treatment as damages in a personal injury and accident type case, the medical providers and doctors must be able to testify that the injury was related to the accident. In other words, they must testify that the treatment the patient received from the doctor or medical provider was the result of the accident.
For example, in a car wreck case with a neck surgery, in order to have the neck surgery, in front of the judge or the jury, as a considerable part of your damages, the doctor that performed the neck surgery ideally has to testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the wreck caused the injury, which resulted in the medical necessity of the surgery. If you have ever had a neck problem, a neck injury, or you are getting up in age, doctors will often times say that it is degeneration, hereditary, the result of getting older, or that it is possibly a result of a pre-existing condition or injury. The doctor may not be willing to testify that it was as a result of the wreck. We are not in collusion with medical providers and do not have some kind of special relationship with physicians where they would make something up, exaggerate, or lie in a report or during their testimony, nor would we want that. That would certainly not be in your best interest, medically or legally. If the surgeon believes that the car wreck, as in the last example, caused the injury which resulted in the medical necessity of a neck surgery, then the doctor should be willing to raise their right hand and testify to that. We simply want to know that the person who treats our client is willing to stick their neck out and take the time to get involved for their patients in dealing with the insurance company and in litigation. We have made a conscious effort to seek out and find doctors and medical providers who fit into this category. The importance of seeking out the right medical treatment cannot be understated.
Aaron Gartlan is a graduate of Troy University and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law who focuses his practice exclusively on representing those injured by the wrongdoing of others. He is member of the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition to his legal practice, Aaron teaches Business Law as an adjunct instructor at Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business and serves as a field artillery sergeant in the Alabama National Guard.