by Dale Gribow
With respect to treatment it is very important that your doctor is not only a good physician but that the doctor is also good at writing a medical/legal report. For 5 years I had had the pleasure of being a member of the Faculty of the International College of Surgeons. I lectured on “How to Write A Medical/Legal Report” at their annual medical conference. I have also lectured to Desert Medical Group and other doctors on this subject.
Unfortunately, most doctors never learn how to write a medical report in medical school. There is an art to writing a medical/legal report and not all doctors have perfected that art.
In other words, a doctor can describe your condition and say “I have seen Mr. Jones and in my opinion there is a 50% chance that Mr. Jones will make a full recovery”. However, I would rather have the doctor say, “I have seen Mr. Jones and in my opinion there is a 50% chance Mr. Jones will not make a full recovery”. In other words, phrasing it in the negative rather than the positive is arguably better for your case. I would not ask the doctor to lie, but rather ask the doctor to be sensitive to what a lawyer will need in trying to settle or litigate a case.
When asked, ”how can a doctor make a difference?” I give the example of two brothers who lived in Palm Desert that were one year apart in age. One was going to school at UCR and the other was going to school at UC Santa Barbara. The one at UCR went to a doctor that I suggested in Riverside. He had a medical bill of about $4,500 and I settled his case for the $15,000 policy limit. The other brother went to a class mates family doctor in Santa Barbara and he had a medical bill of $300. That family doctor gave me a handwritten bill reflecting only a few visits. The Santa Barbara doctor took the approach, go home, soak in a hot bath and come back in a month. If you have a headache, take an aspirin. In other words, he played down the treatment, and thus his patient was penalized when we had to fight to settle his case for $1,000.00.
The Riverside doctor, to whom I referred the other brother, had my client come in three times a week for physical therapy and gave him a prescription for medication for the pain he was experiencing. In other words, the way in which you handle your medical problem controls your recovery. As a general rule, the more you treat the more your case is worth. That doesn’t mean you should treat when you are not injured, but if you do not treat, there is no way of proving your injury.
With respect to the diary, it is important to keep that diary current on a daily basis. I recommend to my clients that they bring the diary with them every time they go to see the doctor. Sometimes on Monday you have symptoms, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 but you are not going to see the doctor until Friday. When you see the doctor on Friday, you may only have symptoms 1, 2 & 3 and the other two symptoms 4 & 5 may have temporarily disappeared. If you bring the diary with you and you read from the diary, you will remember to tell the doctor all of your symptoms on the day you are there and to tell him about the other symptoms that you were experiencing and suffering from during the last several days. You should explain to the doctor that your lawyer asked you to keep this diary to assist you in providing accurate information to the doctor. By doing so you will be able to explain all the symptoms that have occurred since your last appointment and to request the doctor include all your medical symptoms in his medical records.
Each doctor you see should be told of all your medical problems. In other words, if you have problems with your jaw, and you see a dentist for the TMJ problems, you should also tell the dentist about the other medical symptoms that you are encountering. They may in fact be related.
The analogy I often use for an average soft-tissue case, is that you have a muscle and nerve that are not normally touching one another. When the muscle goes into spasm, that is to say it is knotted up, the nerve that normally would not be touching the muscle is now being impinged upon at the point where the muscle is in spasm or knotted. If that nerve goes to your head, it presents itself as head pains or headaches. If the nerve goes to your arm, it may present itself as a pain in your arm even though the arm was not hit. If it goes to your groin it may present itself as a pain to your groin or thigh even though the thigh or groin area was not hit in the accident.
This is Part 5 of a 7 Part Series. To be continued next week.