Meeting With The Treating Doctor – Part of the Big Personal Injury Case

By John Cooper, Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

As an experienced personal injury attorney, I am very used to sitting down with my clients' main surgeon or orthopedic doctor and talking to them about the critical issues in my clients' personal injury case.  I actually enjoy doing this because I often get to know the doctor better and understand the client's injury better so that I can do a better job presenting it to the insurance company or the jury if necessary.  One of the things I pride myself on doing in going to an appointment with the treating physician for my client is to be extremely well prepared. 


I make an appointment well in advance and get together a set of medical records with a summary or medical chronology describing for myself all of the important aspects of the treatment.  I go through typically a few times every record from that particular doctor so that I'm extremely familiar with what they did, said, saw.  By writing out in advance the questions I have for the doctor I make sure to not waste his time or my own.  After all, they charge a lot of money to have the privilege of sitting down with them to talk about the case.  It is not unusual to have to pay somewhere between $500.00 and $1,000.00 an hour to talk with an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon about their care and treatment of a personal injury client.

Obviously with this kind of expense and time commitment we often only do this kind of a sit down in the most serious cases.  However, there are sometimes in a moderately severe car accident case with injuries that we have to sit down with the doctor even before suit to better understand unusual aspects of the case.  The usual main subjects of the discussion are causation and permanency.  Causation refers to the idea that the injuries which we're claiming in the lawsuit are in fact directly the result of the collision and not some other cause.   Sometimes there's factors like a pre-existing condition or injury or subsequent injury or other medical conditions which come into play.  In those situations we study the problem and try to help the doctor to clarify exactly what came from what as far as the injuries.  The last thing I want to do is go before a court and make an argument that something was the result of the wreck and have the insurance defense lawyer make me and the client look like we are over reaching and claiming something which is not supported by the medical facts.

Permanency when applicable is a key aspect of big cases like injuries resulting from truck wrecks.  The discussion with the doctor about permanency is to ask are these chronic problems which my client has had since the date of the collision likely to continue into the future.  Are these symptoms likely to remain at the same level of problem that he currently has now that we are six months or a year after the wreck.  What of the limitations as far as work and lifting are permanent?  What are the future medical treatments including medication, physical therapy or future surgeries that the client can expect that will be required as a results of the injury in question?  Although from my nearly 30 years of experience in personal injury cases I can often guess what the answers are to these questions I need to make sure that the doctor and I are on the same page.  Sometimes I ask the doctor to clarify it in writing.  I need to be sure that when I'm going to the insurance company that I get all of the money my client's entitled to not only for the injuries and pain and suffering that they have incurred to date but for the rest of their lives. 

The way insurance companies resolve personal injury matters and the way the court system does there is a one-time lump sum payment for everything past and future.  There's no coming back later for additional money.  There's no holding the case open to allow bills to be paid by the insurance company in the future.  So it's critical to know what the future likely holds before the case can be resolved.  This can normally only be clarified by sitting down with the doctor and asking the right questions.  If you have been hurt in a car wreck, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (757) 455-0077.


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