Importance of Following Up With Medical Treatment After An Accident
I think generally the most common mistakes deal with medical care, be that a failure to follow your doctor’s orders, a delay in seeking treatment initially thinking you could be superman and tough it out, or receiving gap in treatment where you might have sought treatment right away, but then failing to keep a follow-up appointment, or going for months without treatment and then going back for further treatment.
Those things all pose a big problem. Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, all typically have a duty to mitigate your damages, and if you fail to follow your doctor’s orders, that can be cast as a failure to mitigate your damages.
How Not Following Up Can Hurt Your Case
A classic example of this, it is all too common, is if you have an accident with some soft tissue injury so maybe no broken bones, but sprain, strain, that sort of thing, and you go to an orthopedic surgeon. After your primary care physician says, you know, I don’t think you have any breaks, but let’s get you to an orthopedic surgeon. They look at some films and they see nothing’s broken, but say you’ve got a cervical sprain/strain which is a classic whiplash injury. Your neck might start feeling better after you go to physical therapy a couple times, and if the orthopedic surgeon referred you to physical therapy and they come up with a plan to say you need to go three times a week for the next 6 weeks, then you start feeling better after 1 week and quit going, that failure to follow the doctor’s orders can really come back to bite you when you’re negotiating with the other side as far as trying to decide if you can resolve your claim and if you need to go forward to litigation.
If you ended up going back for treatment after cutting off your therapy too early, it really makes it difficult when you don’t follow the doctor’s orders. Another thing that can lead to a big causation issue is if you wait for 3 or 4 weeks after an accident to first seek medical care. There could be all sorts of intervening causes in between the time of the accident and when you first saw a doctor that could have caused the same injuries.
As the plaintiff, you’re always going to have the burden to show that your injuries were caused by the negligence of the at-fault party, so a delay in treatment is usually problematic, and then gaps in treatment also for the same reason with causation.
Even if you do everything right up the front of the case, you get medical care right away, you follow up when you’re told to, but then you decide you can handle it from there, and you wait a few months until you have an exacerbation of your symptoms, that can really just put your claim in a tough posture as far as being able to come up with arguments for why everything you experience months after you quit seeing a doctor was still caused by the initial accident.
I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, though. The good news about this is that if you just follow your doctor’s orders, you’re most of the way there. It’s one of the simplest pieces of advice, following your doctor’s orders, but it’s one of the biggest and most common mistakes people make in their personal injury cases.