Personal injury claims can be sensitive legal proceedings that require a significant level of honesty and integrity on the parts of both the accident victim and the one responsible for the injury.
One of the most critical parts of any successful personal injury claim is the medical treatment sought for the injury. Unfortunately, this is also where some of the most significant errors are made by the victim.
Your medical treatment following an injury is an equally major factor in what drives the associated personal injury claim. So, remaining consistent with your treatment is vital to ensuring a favorable resolution for your claim.
We hope to enlighten you on why delaying or skipping your medical treatments can be fatal to a personal injury claim with this article.
Exhibit A: It Compromises Your Health
First and foremost, skipping medical attention following a traumatic injury brings with it the enormous risk of weakening your overall health in the long run.
The fact is any injuries sustained in an accident may not be fully felt until well after the accident has been resolved. Often this delay is due to the surge of adrenaline the human body is programmed to provide following a high-stress situation.
Unfortunately, this adrenaline rush causes most pain to be dulled, so it becomes urgent to be examined medically to understand the full extent of your injuries. Otherwise, you run the risk of injuries that you were unaware that you sustained, compromising your overall health.
A situation like this also leaves you with the unwanted issue of seeking additional treatment well past the point you could pursue a claim. As a result, you may end up both physically and financially compromised.
If you skip medical appointments, it not only makes it more difficult to track the progress of your treatment but neglecting your well-being could end up increasing the overall cost of your treatment.
Your physical health is the more pressing issue and should be your priority, with the legal concerns only serving as a secondary priority. This necessary focus is especially true since being wounded and allowing things to worsen by not seeking the treatment you need can make fighting a legal battle exhausting.
However, overlooking your medical needs also complicates the legal proceedings in other ways.
Exhibit B: It Affects Your Settlement
One of the main misconceptions about personal injury claims is that you have a set amount of money to win without external factors. This belief is categorically false as many things determine the value of a personal injury claim. The fact is that your settlement amount relates to the overall medical costs you have incurred as a result of the accident.
The point of the settlement is to help you repay your medical expenses and not line your pockets. The overall cost of treatment following an injury from a car accident or slip and fall accident can be overwhelming, depending on how severely you were wounded.
This factors into the compromised health of skipping doctor’s appointments and receiving the medical treatment you need to fully recover from the trauma.
Awareness of the extent of your injuries and the treatment you require results in a complete compendium of the medical costs you have accumulated in the wake of the accident.
There is a cost for every examination, treatment, physical therapy session, and prescription that you receive for your injuries following an accident. Your personal injury attorney compiles those costs to bolster your position for the negotiation of a fair settlement.
With your medical records and treatments, your attorney will have a much better chance of helping you receive fair compensation from the defendant’s adjuster.
The maximum settlement amount they can offer may depend on the insurance carrier and policy that the defendant has in place, and only if there isn’t a pre-existing worker’s compensation case that conflicts.
In some states, injured workers may have to rely on their employer’s worker’s compensation insurance with work-related injuries. They may not be able to pursue a personal injury case independently.
So, if your medical costs far exceed the initial offer the adjuster puts on the table, then they will be hard-pressed to refuse you a more substantial settlement. However, if you are skipping appointments and avoiding treatment, you are not accumulating costs that would justify a fair settlement amount.
However, this does not mean you should go to the other extreme and overtreat to try and get a larger settlement. If you do so and it is brought to light, it could cause you to be penalized by the insurance company leaving you with a less valuable case and holding those massive medical bills. Those bills might end up being your responsibility to pay for yourself.
The best personal injury lawyers know that it doesn’t pay to game the legal system with having you seek extra medical care. It rarely pays off as insurance companies and defense attorneys can tell when you make a suspiciously large number of trips to the doctor’s office for a specific diagnosis.
Your medical costs (and the fact that you seek additional treatment after your initial round) also prove that the injuries were severe.
Without the medical records from the providers that you received treatment and the copies of the medical bills to corroborate your costs, negotiating the settlement and resolving your case becomes much more challenging.
Even taking the settlement out of the equation, avoiding treatment brings with it a host of complications to your lawsuit.
Exhibit C: It Compromises Credibility
The main goal of any legal proceeding is determining who is at fault so that both parties can take the appropriate steps. In personal injury claims, this requires the plaintiff to be a credible source for the details of their injury. If you are putting off medical treatment and ignoring appointments, your credibility takes a hit.
A gap in medical treatment can be logically viewed as a lack of severe injury and, therefore, not an accident deserving of a large settlement. If you have received your initial treatment and were scheduled for a follow-up appointment, attend it, and failing to do so will make the severity of the injury come into question.
Gaps are often viewed as a scale on which you can measure the severity of an injury. For example, say you received treatment for pain, and instead of going to subsequent treatment regularly, you allow three months to go by before going in for a follow-up.
Doing so makes the sudden new appointment come off as disingenuous and could be considered an attempt to overtreat to maximize your settlement amount.
When your attorney presents your records and bills to the defendant’s insurance adjuster, they will evaluate the dates of service associated with your treatment. If they notice this gap, they will justify giving you a smaller settlement on the injuries not being severe enough to warrant further compensation.
If the case goes to litigation and the records are presented to a jury, they will also evaluate the dates of service. Unfortunately, a jury may not be as impartial as you might like, either. Sometimes, their judgment will be less favorable than it could be when you have gaps in treatment coverage.
We’re not saying that you cannot allow any gaps in treatment to occur at all. There are legitimate reasons for these gaps to occur that, if openly revealed to the necessary parties, will be forgiven and will not severely impact your claim.
However, these legitimate gaps are rare and cannot consist of reasons like “not wanting to go” or “having other plans.”
Legitimate reasons for gaps in treatment include becoming ill before the appointment or having had an unrelated surgery that forced you to recover before seeking further treatment. However, so long as the reasons are within that realm and are expressed clearly in your attorney-client relationship, it should have a minimal impact on your claim.
Your treating physician can help by making detailed notes explaining how this delay did not negatively affect your physical recovery.
A prime example of a valid reason for a gap in treatment is courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic that arose in early 2020.
Virtually every health care provider in the country had clauses stating that anyone who had symptoms of the novel coronavirus or had a confirmed diagnosis could not be seen until the virus had run its course. You posed no threat of infecting others seeking treatment at the facility.
So long as a record of your COVID-19 infection is presented to your attorney as the reason why you could not immediately continue your treatment, then the insurance company cannot use it against you. Although they will likely try to. Granted, COVID-19 keeping you from pursuing treatment for more than a month is rare unless you suffered from other conditions that exacerbated the virus.
In the same vein, neglecting treatment that your physician advises will demonstrate that you either did not need the treatment or that you were not dedicated to seeking treatment within a reasonable time frame to the adjuster.
The longer an injury sits, the worse it gets. The worse it gets, the more expensive the treatment. The more expensive the treatment, the more the adjuster is expected to pay to compensate.
Neglecting treatment for too long could be viewed as an attempt to force their hands and let your injuries worsen to get more money.
Being left permanently injured can work against you if you did not go to treatment or avoided a low-risk surgery that would have allowed you to recover fully. Unfortunately, this allows for the insurance claims adjuster to say it’s your fault and offer you a smaller settlement.
The best thing you can do is seek treatment as soon as possible and provide accurate records that your attorney can use to negotiate a reasonable injury settlement. Just remember that there are numerous checks in place to stop people from inflating their settlement amounts.
Exhibit D: It Alienates Attorneys
You might think that once you retain an attorney’s services that they are committed to the case no matter what. However, this is a misconception that can cost you a fair recovery on your claim in the long run.
Your attorney faces costs by taking up your claim through numerous expenses like filing and court fees. They can only get you to repay those costs using your settlement or trial award money when the case closes.
They are risking their firm’s finances and time helping you. It’s either they make money or lose money on your case.
When gaps in medical treatment begin to arise in a client’s medical history for a personal injury claim that you cannot justify, you are hurting your attorney by putting them at unnecessary financial risk. Like you, they are at risk of getting less money when your case ends.
If you disregard the instructions of your medical providers and neglect treatment, you wind up taking a loss on the settlement. When that happens, your attorney can wind up paying the difference.
If they see that the wind is blowing in the direction of such a loss, they may drop your case. Attorneys need their clients to follow their legal advice in order to properly manage a personal injury case. It can be about a certain personal injury law you are not aware of, such as whether you should file with your health insurance.
Attorneys have a right to protect their interests, and a delinquent client gives the attorney the right to withdraw from the case and force you to find another firm willing to replace them.
However, once the reason for your case being dropped is disclosed to another attorney, they are more likely to refuse to accept your case on the same principles that led to your initial attorney dropping you as a client.
Your attorney is your greatest ally in a personal injury claim as they are negotiating and spending money on your behalf. If your attorney loses confidence in you before filing suit, your claim is as good as gone unless you have the confidence and skill to file the claim alone.
Though this generally results in smaller settlements. You want to retain your attorney since they will increase the likelihood of a successful claim, so following your doctor’s orders and keeping your treatment on a regular schedule is one of the most important things you can do to keep them on the case.
Medical treatment is what drives personal injury claims forward. The costs and records are the focal points of the negotiations between your law firm and the defendant’s claims adjuster.
Letting your treatment fall by the wayside and compromising the timeline hurts the claim itself by making the validity of the treatment and your injuries fall into question. It can even cost you your attorney.
It is in your best interest to do as your physician advises and follow the course of treatment to the letter to maintain the validity of your case. However, just because you have a personal injury claim does not mean life gets paused.
Even as a personal injury claim is processed, you are still expected to maintain the average cost of living. It can be rather difficult to pay for your legal fees and the expenses you experience in your everyday life, like rent or groceries. However, one possible solution will allow you to make ends meet while your attorney pursues your claim.
Legal funding is a practice in which a company offers you the funds you need to make payments on housing and necessities in exchange for a portion of your future settlement or trial award.
The most significant benefit is that legal funding is risk-free as the company will only expect repayment should you win or settle your case and leave you free of liability should your case go to court and lose. Contact us today for a free consultation.
About the Author
Aaron R. Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. Aaron Winston is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
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