What To Say To Doctor After Car Accident In Florida?
What you tell the doctor is essential. Everything you say to the doctor is noted in your medical records. Your medical records are crucial evidence used to prove your injuries. Doctors see hundreds, if not thousands, of patients a year. Regarding testifying, your doctor will rely on the medical records to refresh their recollection of your treatment, injuries, and what you told them about the crash.
Explain Details Of Crash
You’ll want to explain to your doctor exactly how the car accident happened. If you have a copy of your police report, bringing it to the doctor’s appointment might be a good idea. The police report will have a detailed description of the location of the crash, the parties involved, the vehicle’s direction, and if any tickets were issued in the crash. In Florida, you can request a copy of a crash report online by visiting the Florida Crash Portal.
You should tell your doctor if you were wearing your seatbelt. Failure to wear a seatbelt in Florida can be raised as an affirmative defense of comparative negligence. In other words, if you aren’t wearing your seatbelt, recovering money in a car accident case in Florida is practically impossible.
In explaining the accident details to your doctor, you’ll want to detail the points of impact of the crash. For example, was it a front-end collision or a T-bone-type collision? Was your head facing forward, and you got slammed from behind, causing a whiplash-type motion to your head and neck. You’ll also want to disclose any body parts struck inside the car. For example, did your knee slam up against the dashboard? Tell your doctor. Did your head smack against the side window? Tell your doctor. Did your shoulder bang up against the car door? Tell your doctor.
You’ll also want to tell your doctor if the airbags deployed. Besides being an indicator of the crash forces and points of impact, the airbags can cause additional injuries. Frequently, when the airbags go off, my clients have bruising on the hands and arms due to the airbags exploding.
You should also detail the extent of the property damage. For example, was there any broken glass from a broken windshield? Was the car door smashed shut, so you had to be cut out via the jaws of life? Also, report any sounds, sights, or smells you recall from the crash. Try to be as descriptive as possible. These vivid details can be used at trial to explain the details of the car accident.
You should also tell your doctor if you were treated at the scene and transported by ambulance to the hospital. I always suggest that my clients accept ambulance transportation to the hospital, but I also understand that’s only sometimes possible. The kids still need to be picked up from school, the groceries have to get home, or they’ll go bad, and you worry about leaving your car behind while you get a ride to the emergency room. I get it; it’s only sometimes convenient. However, if you were transported by ambulance to the hospital, you should tell your doctor.
Report All Your Injuries
When talking to your doctor, you want to report all your injuries. It’s essential to make all of your complaints known. Now is not the time to downplay your pain.
Whenever a client enters my office, I ask, “How are you feeling..??” I do this for two (2) reasons. First, I genuinely want to know how they are feeling. Second, I want to see how clients express their injuries to someone they’ve just met. Sometimes, clients are good at communicating their injuries; other times, they’ll say something like, “I’m good.” I’ve just seen them hobble into my office; I know they’re not “good.” They’re in pain. I can see it in their face, in how they’re struggling in the chair, but they don’t want to sound like a complainer.
When you’re with your doctor, you must be brutally honest in reporting your injuries. Don’t exaggerate, but don’t soften your suffering to avoid sounding like a complainer. Remember, if you say to your doctor, “I’m good,” the doctor will write in the medical records, “patient feels good,” which is likely not an accurate depiction of what is happening.
When reporting your injuries to your doctor, you should inform them of the timing of the pain. Was it immediately following the crash, or did it come on slowly when the dust settled? The timing of when you became symptomatic can be a factor in confirming the car accident was the cause of your injuries.
Frequently, my clients don’t feel a lot of pain right away. Their adrenaline is pumping, which masks their pain. After some time, the pain starts to set in. This is typical of most crashes. You’ll want to inform the doctor of the onset of your pain.
Again, it may seem obvious, but you want to inform the doctor of ALL of your pain. Describing the specific locations and body parts and the kind of pain. Things like dull pain, aching pain, or sharp pain should also be explained to your doctor. For example, if you have dull and aching neck pain that radiates into your shoulders, tell your doctor about both areas. Be as specific as possible, and try not to leave anything out. If you say to the doctor the location of your pain, they will document it in your medical records.
A common defense used by the insurance company is if you don’t mention a specific body part that is injured in your initial examination and then mention it later on, they’ll claim it was caused by the crash. So, if you’re experiencing headaches, but your primary complaint is neck pain, and you forget to mention the headaches until your follow-up visit, the insurance company will claim that the headaches weren’t accident-related because it was reported during your first doctor’s appointment. Now, context matters, so if you forget something that can be explained, but as a general matter, be sure to report ALL your injuries to your doctor.
The doctor may ask you about your pain levels. Typically, they’ll use a pain scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst and 0 being no pain. Be careful when responding to pain scales because pain levels differ for everyone. Someone’s 10 pain level may only be 5 for someone else.
If you give a pain level score, I always recommend giving an assessment at the current moment and then broadly as a whole. For example, if your pain level is 5 (moderate), but yesterday it was 9 (severe), be sure to inform your doctor. Say something like, “My pain was terrible yesterday, but today is down to 5. If you say your pain is 5 out of 10 (current level), the doctor will record your pain as 5 out of 10, which isn’t accurate because yesterday it was more severe.
Car accident injuries can also cause issues with sleep. Be sure to inform your doctor if you’re having problems falling asleep or staying asleep after a car accident. Also, tell your doctor what activities of daily living have been negatively impacted since the crash. Physical impairment and difficulty with movement should be discussed with your doctor after an accident.
Also, you should show your doctor if you have photographs of your injuries. Typically, my car accident clients will have cuts and bruises after the crash. I recommend you take pictures of those injuries and note when you took the photographs. Photographs can be very persuasive in building a car accident injury case. They can assist your doctor in making an accurate diagnosis.
In Florida, the most essential aspect of a car accident case is to show you have sustained a permanent injury to the body as a whole. This doesn’t mean you must be bound to a wheelchair or walk around with a cane to have a case. You can have what is often referred to as “pilot light pain” and still recover money for your car accident. Pilot light pain is the type of pain that consistently flickers (like a pilot light on a stove), and sometimes, when you do certain things, the pain flares up. It’s always there, flickering in the background; it never disappears. Some folk’s pilot light pain is severe, while others can be moderate.
It’s crucial to remember if you are 100% recovered and you have no pain after treatment you do not have permanent injury. Thus, you may only recover your medical bills and no money for your past/future pain and suffering, which usually is the bulk of most personal injury cases. So, if you say to your doctor you don’t have pain or that you’re fully healed, you are entitled to $0 in monetary damages for pain and suffering.
In my experience, while it can be expected for your injuries to improve, it’s rare for people injured in car accidents to fully recover and not have at least some residual discomfort or physical impairment as a result of the crash. If you can describe yourself as having good days and bad days a few months after a collision, you are more likely than not to have a permanent injury. Because your doctor is the one who decides if you have a permanent injury, what you say (or don’t say) can have a significant impact on your permanency rating and your overall recovery in a car accident case.
Provide Accurate Medical History
When talking to your doctor after a car accident, you’ll want to provide an accurate history of your prior medical treatment. This includes information about any prior accidents, injuries, or surgeries. You’ll want to be brutally honest in providing this information. Suppose you don’t include your past medical history, preexisting conditions, or prior accidents, and the insurance company discovers this information (which they will). In that case, it will appear that you aren’t being truthful. In any personal injury car accident case, credibility is essential.
You should also put all your prior medical treatments into context. For example, did you have a previous shoulder injury, but it resolved, and you didn’t have any pain before the crash. Do you have an old knee injury from playing football, and you see an orthopedist from time to time, but it wasn’t bothering you before the crash, and now it’s causing you pain. Did you have back surgery 10 years ago, and your pain resolved? Now, since the crash, your back pain is back, and now it’s worse. You should let the doctor know.
Until they let babies drive cars, most people will have had some prior issues with pain in their back, shoulders, and/or knees. Trust me, the defense will find out, so don’t try to hide it; be brutally honest.
Also, identifying all your prior treating physicians will allow your doctor (and your attorney) to collect those prior medical records and compare your previous condition to what you’re feeling now. For example, if you had an MRI of your neck 2 years ago, your doctor could obtain that MRI and see if any new injuries were caused by this current car crash.
In my practice, I’ve successfully proved injuries caused by a crash by obtaining the prior primary care physician records to show that the client/patient didn’t make any prior complaints about the now hurt body part. For example, a car accident victim who now has neck and back pain but 6 months earlier saw an orthopedist for right knee pain. In those records, the prior orthopedist noted that the patient had no neck or back pain complaints. Fast forward to today, and the client has neck and back pain. It wasn’t there 6 months ago when the client went in for knee pain, but it’s here now after the car crash. This means it is more likely than not that the neck and back pain was caused by the collision. Even the defense’s doctor will have to admit this.
Discuss Physical Requirements Of Work
You’ll also want to talk with your doctor about the physical requirements of work. Do you have a desk job, or are you doing a labor-intensive job? If your pain and discomfort interfere with your ability to perform your work, you should tell your doctor. The doctor will note this physical limitation and may offer you a doctor’s note so you can miss work and not fear losing your job.
My clients often ask me if they should return to work after a car accident. I always tell them to listen to their doctor and their body. In most cases, my clients can do the work; it’s just that the experience is different. They may have to take frequent breaks or ask for help doing specific tasks. If you can work, you should.
I’ve used testimony from co-workers and bosses to talk about the work ethic of the injured worker. They didn’t let the pain or discomfort discourage them from doing what they had to do to take care of their family, and they stepped up to the plate even though the pain made it hard. This is the hero’s journey in every great movie or story.
Also, this testimony can prove the legitimacy of your injuries, truthfulness, character, and work ethic. We can use your reputation of good character because the defense in almost every case is quietly questioning whether you are actually hurt as bad as you say you are. Essentially, they call you a liar without actually saying you are lying. Because of this, they’ve opened the door to provide good character evidence.
Give Insurance Information
You should provide all your insurance policies when speaking with your doctor after a car accident. This includes your auto insurance policy information and Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) benefits. This will cover 80% up to $10,000 of your medical treatment. You have this coverage in Florida under the “no-fault” system.
You should also provide any health insurance information you have. This is secondary to the PIP and liability coverage from the crash. Many providers will bill health insurance after the PIP benefits are exhausted. Now, health insurance may have a right of subrogation, that is, a right to get paid back should you recover in a car accident case, but usually, that amount is much lower than the cost of medical treatment if you’re uninsured. Health insurance subrogation is highly complicated, and you should call a personal injury attorney to discuss it in more detail.
Finally, I suggest you avoid signing a letter of protection (“LOP”) with the doctor’s office. An LOP is simply an agreement that you agree the doctor gets paid from the case settlement, and the doctor agrees to treat you without you having to pay any upfront costs.
Most doctors who handle car accident cases will bill your PIP as a primary way of getting paid upfront. Then this is where having an attorney is helpful. Having an attorney signals to the doctor that there is a case and there will be money available to cover any expenses not covered by PIP. Under the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, attorneys must protect the bills of third parties. In other words, they can’t distribute funds directly to the client when an outstanding balance is owed to the doctor. Because of these ethical obligations, there would be no need to sign the LOP.
Why is this important? Because now, under new Florida legislation, the existence of an LOP is discoverable. Your lawyer must give it to the other side in the trial. Well, why does that matter? The defense wants to use it as a hammer to prove the doctor has a vested interest in exaggerating the truth because he wants to get paid on his bill. In other words, jury members, please don’t listen to the treating doctor’s words because he’ll say anything to get his bill paid. This is a BS argument, and a good trial lawyer has several ways to put this into context and take the sting out of this frivolous defense argument.