At Clark and Steinhorn, LLC we have represented thousands of victims of car and truck accidents. The lessons from these cases are many, but one of the more important ones focuses on the unfortunate experiences of those people who end up at the "wrong doctor".
What we mean when we say the "wrong doctor" is that some doctors or healthcare providers are better able to get you well than others. Also some doctors prove unable to provide the most basic information necessary to support a personal injury claim.
So what are the primary considerations one should keep in mind in choosing a doctor for post-accident care?
Obviously the number one consideration is finding someone who can get you well. This may be harder than it sounds. If you break a bone the logical choice is an orthopedic surgeon. If you have a significant nerve injury with pain radiating from one area of the body into another, a neurologist or neurosurgeon would be a wise choice. Foot injury probably a podiatrist.
However, many car accident-related injuries don't involve broken bones or nerve injuries but muscle pain or soft tissue injury. For these issues there are many choices. Many people see a crash-related healthcare provider through the portal of their primary treating physician. Sometimes, the preferred provider receives insurance incentives to keep a patient under their treatment.
Increasingly, we see general practitioners and doctors of internal medicine supervising the physical therapy and care of accident victims. This can work but many of these doctors do not appreciate the importance of their role in documenting the necessity for treatment and in periodically looking in on the physical therapy or chiropractic treatment that they have prescribed.
This phenomenon is a problem as some therapists and chiropracters have an incentive to keep treating the accident victims well beyond the time when any therapeutic benefit has been gained. This creates problems as the insurance companies that are the ultimate source of fair compensation for crash victims often employ computer programs which can alert them to "over-treatment."
One man's "over-treatment" may be another's highly necessary treatment but if there is no physician documentation of the necessity for continuing treatment this can be a big problem.
So, if you are hurt and you go see your general practitioner or preferred provider, make sure they have handled these situations before. We also have found that such doctors are far less likely to produce the medical reports and off-work slips that are essential to buttressing a claim for personal injuries. Make sure at the outset that they will do so or seek someone who can.
The next consideration beyond someone who can get you well, is willing to keep track of your ongoing care needs and who will produce the necessary documentation, is convenience. If your doctor is a long way away that means you will be less apt to go see them when you really need to.
Here, in Laurel, there are quite a number of capable doctors and if you live or work here it is easier to locate someone convenient than in less populated areas. Sometimes unique specialists aren't readily available nearby but that usually isn't a problem as their visits are less frequent.
The final consideration is payment. If you have health insurance check and see if the healthcare provider you are contemplating takes yours. If not this can cause stoppages in treatment and the potential for large amounts of your settlement being consumed by paying doctor and therapy bills.
Some health insurers seek repayment of their medical payments at the end of the case but such repayments are vastly less than paying the actual doctor's bills. For example, you may receive a $100.00 bill for an x-ray but Blue Cross has an agreement with the radiologist to pay them $45.00. Thus, even if you have to pay back Blue Cross, you are paying back $45.00 not a $100.00.
If you don't have health insurance there are healthcare providers who will take an authorization and assignment to be repaid out of any settlement or verdict. This arrangement can work but make sure you know what you are signing before you do so.
In summary find a doctor or healthcare provider who you can afford, who has the skill-set to get you well, who will provide the necessary supervision and documentation of your medical condition, who is convenient to your home or work.