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Three No-Fail Must-Know Secrets To Get More From Your Injury Case

Monday, 16th March 2009

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After 25 years of working as an injury attorney on thousands of cases ranging in value from ten thousand dollars to millions of dollars there are three key principles that stand out when it comes to getting maximum dollar value from a case. They are:

1) IDENTIFY ALL INJURIES;
2. MAKE SURE EACH INJURY IS PROPERLY DIAGNOSED;
3. MAKE SURE EACH INJURY IS APPROPRIATELY TREATED.

STEP ONE: IDENTIFY ALL INJURIES

What?”, you say, “Isn’t that the doctor’s job?”

Maybe.

But is it the doctor’s job to make sure you get maximum recovery on your case?

In this day of specialization doctors are increasingly aware of their own area of specialization and less aware of injuries outside their area. It’s sort of like the “forest for the trees” metaphor.

An orthopedic surgeon, for example, can certainly spot a bone break. But is it realistic for him to also know symptoms of TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder)

TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorder is an abnormal condition with facial pain and poor function of the lower jaw. It is caused by a defective or dislocated TMJ joint (i.e. jaw joint).

One common sign of “TMJ” is clicking of the joint when the jaws move. [Mosby Medical Encyclopedia, Revised Edition.]

I represented a Chinese man who came to the United States to attend college. While cruising the freeway in his Volkswagen bus one night, he was struck from behind by a semi-truck.

His injuries were numerous and various.

One day, after he had seen many doctors, he was visiting with me, discussing his case. My attention was drawn to an audible “pop” sound which coincided with the opening of his mouth.

TMJ? You better believe it. One of the worst cases I had ever seen (or heard). I brought it to the attention of one of his doctors so a referral could be made to a TMJ specialist.

HEAD INJURY

Another common malady in accident cases (especially after auto accidents) is a “closed head injury”, which is trauma (injury) to the brain without skull fracture.

One type of closed head injury is a “concussion” which is a violent jarring or shaking injury to the brain. [Mosby Medical Encyclopedia, Revised Edition.]

Closed head injuries are quite common in car accidents and can occur even though the injured person did not strike their head. There is a type of head injury known as contre-coup concussion that is described in the following paragraph:

“A rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head can
force the brain to move back and forth across the inside
of the skull. The stress from the rapid movements pulls
apart nerve fibers and causes damage to brain tissue.
This type of injury often occurs as a result of motor
vehicle crashes and physical violence, such as Shaken
Baby Syndrome.” Source: Brain Injury Association of
America.

How do you make sure all injuries are diagnosed?

Use a checklist.

There at least twelve (12) common symptoms of closed head injury.

Years ago I obtained a list of these from a neuropsychologist. (A “neuropsychologist” is the medical professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of closed head injuries.)

I also obtained, from a TMJ specialist, a list of common TMJ symptoms.

These symptoms have been incorporated into a checklist which is included in my accident paperwork that all my new clients have been filling out for years.

I’ll be posting it on this blog so be sure to come back or sign up for RSS feed or email feed so you don’t miss it.

Another way to make sure all injuries are identified is to tell your doctor. At your first visit, certainly, but also on later visits. Be sure to tell your doctor about symptoms that are new or worse since the accident.

Sometimes your pain might be most severe in your neck right after the accident. Later, when that pain subsides your knee could be troubling you most and your knee could turn out to be the most seriously injured part of your body.

If he doesn’t listen, tell your attorney. You might feel something is minor or not important so you are reluctant to tell your doctor or attorney. The best practice is to tell your doctors and attorneys everything. Let them decide what is important.

If your doctor doesn’t listen tell your attorney. If your attorney won’t listen get another attorney. Find someone who will listen.

Attorney-client relationships are like all relationships: there is no substitute for good communication. And that requires listening, on both sides.

STEP TWO: MAKE SURE EACH INJURY IS PROPERLY DIAGNOSED

How do you make sure each injury is properly diagnosed?

Once you’ve used the checklist and spotted a potential injury bring it to the attention of your doctors and lawyer. Your lawyer can ask your primary treating physician to make a referral to a specialist who can perform tests and formally diagnose the injury.

STEP THREE: MAKE SURE EACH INJURY IS APPROPRIATELY TREATED.

Make sure all of your injuries is appropriately treated by going to the doctor after your accident.

Stoicism was a philosophy practiced in ancient Greece. The essence was “suck it up, don’t complain, be a man”.

This philosophy may have worked in Ancient Greece but it doesn’t work in a modern injury case. Not if you want to get top value for your injuries.

If you are hurt, go to the doctor. Follow his treatment recommendations.

Insurance defense attorneys love to bring up in court that the plaintiff (injured person) did not follow the doctor’s recommendations. Juries expect you to follow your doctor’s advice.

There’s a legal principle called “mitigation of damages”. It says you must take steps to reduce the harm you suffer when someone causes you injury. If you fail to follow your doctor’s advice, you have failed to “mitigate your damages”.

There is a specific “jury instruction” that the defense attorney will ask the judge to give the jury if he thinks you haven’t been faithful to treatment recommendations.

You will get less money if you don’t get the treatment prescribed by your doctors.

Even something as small as missing an appointment can make a difference.

Doctors don’t like it when patients miss appointments. They sometimes write in large letters: “PATIENT FAILED TO SHOW“.

Juries get to see all the medical records. Imagine their reaction to just one of those comments.

So make your appointments. Do your part to get better.

If the TMJ specialist tells you to wear your brace daily for six weeks, wear the brace.

If your doctor prescribes daily exercises, do the exercises.

If surgery is recommended and the second opinion doctor agrees. Get the surgery. Your case is worth infinitely more after the surgery.

CONCLUSION

By following the advice in this article you avoid mistakes that will cost you thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on your injury case.

 
 
 

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