Should I Talk to My Doctor About My Legal Claim?
The answer to that depends upon your doctor's viewpoint toward the tort
system and monetary recovery for pain and suffering. Please be aware that
some healthcare professionals are opposed to lawyers and the tort system
and the general idea of recovery for pain and suffering. In addition, they
are aware that if they support you in your claim by making a medical record
that attributes pain and suffering directly to the accident, they may
become involved in the tort system. They might have to make a special
report, give a deposition, or even testify.
Although you do not have an attorney at this time, you might later have
one. It is likely that the doctor would then have to talk to your attorney,
participate in depositions, and possibly even testify at a trial. All of
this extra activity is a nuisance to the doctor even though he is
paid for his time. Incidentally, in all but one of the instances involving
extra doctor participation in the court system, you will be paying for
the doctor's time out of your own pocket. The one exception is when the
tortfeasor's insurance company seeks the doctor's deposition.
The point of this is that the doctor has a hard time running his own
practice if he has a number of attorneys calling up and seeking time to
come see him, asking him to write additional letters, asking for
clarification of his report, setting up deposition schedules and
pre-deposition meetings for him, and taking time from his busy schedule for
The cost in terms of disruption to his practice is more of a burden than
the dollars he receives. Thus, attorneys, particularly defense attorneys,
often subpoena your doctor. Even if he has scheduled appointments to the
end of the day, they will subpoena him for after working hours. It has been
so unpleasant for many doctors that they have elected not to participate in
the tort or claims process.
Those doctors would prefer not to be involved at all. They will
use every opportunity to insert a "poison pill" in your records so they
will not be called as witnesses. He may include something that severely
undermines what you both know - that the accident caused your injuries. For
example, your doctor may state that your injuries appear likely to have
been caused by the accident, but he may then note that you had some obvious
degenerative charges prior to the accident. This may satisfy you upon first
reading but it falls short of the necessary testimony to prove
causation. The doctor has to be able to testify that the
accident caused your injuries on a more probable than not basis.
Another ploy used by doctors is to diminish your injuries, either in
severity or expected duration, or both. Watch to see if he uses adjectives
that minimize the pain - "a little discomfort," "moderate," mild" -- or
frequency - "occasional," "intermittent" - or which shorten the expected
duration - "expected to fully recover within 6 weeks," "prognosis good for
full recovery with no residuals." Obviously, these statements apply to some
cases but, if they are different from what he told you, or if for some
other reason you think they do not belong in your reports, you need to read
this section of our Web site to learn how to supplement the doctor's
In direct answer to your question, a chiropractor is a lot more likely to
support your claim than is an orthopedic surgeon. It is, of course,
difficult and often useless to generalize about categories of
professionals. However, experience shows that, on the whole, specialists at
the higher end (such as orthopedic surgeons) are less likely to display an
interest in the quality of your settlement award. Our best advice is to
innocently ask a question regarding a claim. Often a doctor may ask whether
you have a lawsuit or a claim pending or whether you have an attorney. A
good way to respond is to ask your doctor what he thinks you should do
about a claim. That way you will find out the extent to which he is willing
to support you. You can always tell him that you are considering a claim,
but that your primary emphasis is on healing. That is always the patriotic
thing to do as far as medical doctors are concerned. It will earn you
points and maybe buy you some cooperation from them. Medical doctors do not
want to write reports in support of a claim if they feel they are being
manipulated or used as a tool primarily to obtain a settlement award.
Besides, as much as you want that settlement award, you want even more to
feel terrific again and be able to enjoy your life - and your award.
There have been instances where doctors have noted, "The patient is here at
the insistence of his attorney to document his injuries." You can imagine
how such a statement would affect a jury. Of course, a tortfeasor's
adjuster will be gleeful.
In summary, use the doctors to maximize both your physical recovery and
your financial recovery. Become familiar with aspects of doctor selection
and essential documentation in your medical records. Spend as much time as
necessary on the SettlementCentral.Com Web site to become an
informed patient and an informed claimant.