If you’ve suffered a serious personal injury at the hands of another, hiring inexperienced legal counsel to represent your interests can cost you a bundle. When it comes to medical records, having an experienced personal injury lawyer – especially one who has worked for the insurance companies in the past and knows their tricks – can make an enormous difference in your life and the size of your personal injury recovery. Simply put, proper analysis, interpretation, and presentation of medical evidence translates to much higher personal injury payments for the collision victim.
Let’s explore some of the reasons why this is the case, starting with the medical records themselves. In the simplest terms, medical records are records created in the course of your medical treatment. If you’ve been in a serious automobile accident, these include records like the Ambulance Report, the E.R. records, files from I.C.U., and all the doctor’s charts for your follow-up treatment. Any personal injury attorney who’s been hanging his shingle in the wind for a few years would know that.
But there’s so much more, isn’t there? Here are a host of more sophisticated medical records details, specifics, and nuances that can make all the difference in the size of your settlement or jury award.
1. Comprehensive, Uniform Medical Picture:
When you’ve suffered a serious personal injury, you have lots of balls in the air. You have all the emergency-related records, you have all the medical records from your GP, treaters, and specialists, and you have all sorts of “claims” you must present. The “claims” that mention your medical condition (and must tie-in tightly to your medical records) could range from worker’s comp and disability to health care coverage and liability to your application for Unemployment Insurance benefits.
It is crucial that your personal injury story - and the full scope of your injuries – be part of a comprehensive, coherent picture. All of your descriptive words must fully explain your injuries, past and present, and must be completely consistent with each other. What you say and how you say it is also crucial because being incomplete, contradicting yourself, and saying the wrong thing can lead an insurance adjuster to deny or devalue your claim.
Inexperienced counsel rarely understands the importance of creating a comprehensive, uniform medical picture from the outset, including the need to engage the kinds of in-house nurses and medical experts that we at The Nagle Firm have on staff to help you accomplish this all-important foundational step.
Further, victims and lawyers without significant insurance industry experience often make the mistake of simply collecting and sending the records to the insurance company for review. This places the task of analyzing the medical records with the handling adjuster, who is being paid to oppose your case and minimize your injury claim payments. Former insurance adjuster Carl Nagle knows that it is the victim’s burden to interpret medical records and highlight the medical evidence that best demonstrates the full extent of the victim’s physical pain, emotional suffering, medical problems and lost quality-of-life.
The presentation of a Comprehensive, Uniform Medical Picture should also involve consideration of the victim’s past medical history, and their age, overall health, employment, personal hobbies and overall life circumstances. For example, if a single mother who works full time is rendered unable to work, she will have far more emotional hardship as she seeks to make ends meet while out of work. Similarly, if a young man is involved in sports and cannot continue due to limitations imposed by personal injury, these factors must be carefully highlighted in the injury claim presentation. This is the only way to compel the adjuster to understand their true financial exposure in a trial setting and to, therefore, pay a settlement that reflects what the victim would expect on a good day in court.
2. Proactive Pursuit of Specialists and Sub-Specialists:
Inexperienced personal injury counsel tends to let the medical treatment of their clients “go with the flow.” You know, the injury has taken place, you’ve been seen by certain physicians, maybe a specialist or two has been recommended… but there your treatment and recovery plan drifts to a stop. You might be happy with your current doctors or not, but either way, there is more to the picture: it is the difference between being reactive and proactive.
As the Consumer Health Coalition advises, be fully prepared to ask the medical office staff a host of questions; based on your Comprehensive, Uniform Medical Picture, communicate clearly and actively with all of your physicians what you’ve experienced and what you need; and always discuss and link together your physical treatment with your medications and mental health concerns. This creates a personal health profile that fully explores your injuries, identifies needed specialties, and also suggests sub-specialists in a medical world that’s more specialized than ever. The easiest and most effective approach is to let doctors know of EVERY symptom/limitation/problem that you are having. A thorough presentation of injury symptoms results in thorough diagnostics and treatment. Thus, your health is best protected and thorough medical care also ensures that medical records reflect the full extent of all injuries and suffering.
Former insurance company lawyer Carl Nagle knows that insurance companies trivialize injuries and always seek to minimize injury claims. While our firm does not recommend doctors to our clients (because this can actually harm the overall injury claim), we do rely on our decades of experience and guide our clients in understanding their symptoms and their medical options. We help you day-to-day to understand what medical options are available, and how to use health insurance to open medical doors and to maximize your net share of the ultimate settlement payment in your personal injury case. Because inexperienced personal injury counsel does not appreciate the difference in being reactive versus proactive, your own health and the size of your settlement are substantially enhanced by going with experienced personal injury counsel like those at The Nagle Firm.
3. Past and Future Medicals… and the Consequences:
Very often inexperienced personal injury counsel tends to focus only on the medical expenses incurred between the date of the collision and the date of settlement. The fact, however, is that many medical expenses can go on for many years and even a lifetime. Towards this end, it is essential to retain medical specialists who can project the degree, extent, and cost of medical coverage going forward, as many treating physicians, even specialists, are focused mostly on treatment and not the cost and consequences. Insurance companies don’t want victims to know this important fact – they owe the victim’s collision-related medical expenses for the rest of their life!
Beyond securing proof of the anticipated cost of future medical needs, we must also show how the injuries will impact your quality-of-life and your capacity to continue to earn income in the future. In serious and permanent injury cases, this means rehabilitation and economic experts must be consulted and, in the right cases, “quality of life” experts retained who can testify to the collective impact of your injury, medical treatments, medications, and ability to enjoy life…and put a value on it. Here at The Nagle Firm, we are experienced in developing and presenting the bigger picture, including the use of evidentiary tools like “Day in the Life” videos that embrace the power of the tried and true maxim: a picture – especially those in a video - tells a thousand words.
4. Securing Compelling Medical Narratives:
Lacking experience as a personal injury lawyer can sometimes result in a ball being totally dropped. One of those balls is the proper and safe communication with treating physicians concerning the patient’s injuries and medical condition. The frank truth is Medical Doctors typically have NO interest in participating in injury cases. Many doctors actually refuse care to accident victims. This is because they worry that if the patient’s injury claim cannot be resolved through a private, out-of-court settlement that the doctor may one day be served with a Subpoena and have to drop everything to attend a trial.
Carl Nagle has worked on both sides of the aisle in injury cases, working early in his career as an insurance defense lawyer and working for over two decades now only handling accident cases for collision victims and their families. He knows that doctors avoid litigation, and sometimes resist participating in the presentation of a victim’s injury claims. Further, doctors often note in their records if the patient themselves asks questions about their legal case or requests medical opinion narratives. It is quite common to see a notation in the daily treatment records like “patient comes in today with questions about their insurance claims, may be pecuniary gain or malingering issues involved”. A record like this can be used by insurance company lawyers in court to suggest that the accident victim is faking or exaggerating their injuries and symptoms purely to push up the value of their injury claims.
The best practice is to put the doctors and their schedules first in priority. Further, when we seek a medical narrative (a/k/ an opinion letter); we do so at the appropriate time so we minimize any requests of the doctor’s time or assistance. Further, by making it clear that the doctor’s opinion is being sought solely to facilitate honest and thorough case presentation with an eye toward motivating a private, out-of-court settlement, we give the physician the opportunity to both support the patient’s injury claims, and also to facilitate settlement talks so that the case can be resolved through private compromise. This allows the doctor to assist counsel with the injury claim, and also help to avoid the need for them to attend the trial or participate any further in the patient’s injury case.
In addition to the foregoing, there are numerous other aspects of medical records that, in the hands of inexperienced counsel, can devalue your claim. These aspects include the impact of medical records on accident and injury causation, pre-existing medical conditions and the aggravation thereof, the concepts of the “eggshell plaintiff” and “taking your plaintiff as you find him or her,” the importance of following physician’s orders and mitigating losses, new injuries resulting from accident injuries, treatments and medications, understanding tricky evidentiary problems that impact the admissibility of medical records, and so on and so forth.
In the final analysis, hiring experienced personal injury counsel who understands the role of medical records gives you a significant edge during the crucial case evaluation stage. Combine that with The Nagel Firm’s reputation for going to trial and securing substantial jury awards, and it is likely to make a profound difference in the size of your personal injury recovery. Experience, in other words, is your best protection from missing out on valuable aspects of your claim.