To Thy Doctor (And Lawyer) Be True
One of the easiest ways to sink your workers’ compensation or personal injury case is to fail to tell your doctor about any previous treatment you have had to the same part of your body. This is because a doctor’s opinion regarding whether your work injury or accident you were involved in caused your injury is often based upon the lack of any previous treatment you received. Doctors often rely upon a patient’s past medical history in giving a causation opinion. If the history is inaccurate or incomplete it not only can destroy you case’s credibility, but also put your doctor in an awkward of embarrassing situation.
Insurance companies have millions upon millions of dollars at their disposal and it is pretty easy for them to find out where you have received treatment in the past. I always tell a client that they need to be completely forthcoming with me as well as their doctor because the insurance company either knows or will find out if the client received prior treatment.
Not only does the revelation of prior treatment affect the doctor’s opinion, it also greatly affects the credibility of the patient. Why did they not reveal this prior treatment? Were they worried it would hurt their case? Is there something else going on here? What are they hiding? These questions will undoubtedly be asked by a jury or arbitrator and will be reinforced over and over again by the insurance company’s attorney.
What to do? When your doctor (or attorney) asks you if you have received prior treatment for the same part of the body, think really hard and be completely forthcoming. If you aren’t sure, say so. It may be difficult to recall treatment you had 10+ years ago and that is understandable. But it is better to tell your doctor or attorney that you aren’t sure or that you maybe had something several years ago rather than completely denying that it is possible. Of course, if you are certain that you have never had prior treatment, say that as well.
Keep in mind that just because you had prior treatment does not mean that your case will fail. In Illinois, you are entitled to recover for the aggravation of a preexisting condition as a result of an accident or work injury. This is true even if the aggravating accident was only a 1% contributing factor in causing your condition to be aggravated. If your symptoms were in remission and flared up or caused new symptoms, your doctor will likely still be able to say that the accident or work injury was “a cause” of your condition.
As Jerry MacGuire said “help me help you” and provide me (and your doctors) with all of the information that could affect your case. In the end, the truth will set you free from the typical credibility arguments made by insurance defense attorneys and make your case a lot more viable.