If your injuries cause symptoms or limitations that continue more than four to six weeks, you should speak with your family doctor or primary-care physician about the potential need for specialized care. For example, in a spinal injury case where the patient is experiencing ongoing pain with any numbness or tingling sensation extending from the point of injury into the arms and hands or legs and feet, it is typically wise for a family physician to refer the patient for an orthopedic or neurological evaluation. The more specialized physicians deal with these specific injuries on a daily basis. They are highly trained to focus on proper diagnosis and treatment of significant injury.
Many health insurance programs utilize a preferred provider network, which is a list of family care physicians and specialists who are all covered under the health insurance policy. With these plans, the primary care physician is the first stop for all general medical needs. A small copay covers full payment for the family doctor visit. Many plans require the patient to first see the primary-care physicians (a.k.a. PCP) and then secure their referral to a specialist. This is an insurance-related cost-control safeguard. Please understand, therefore, that you should make sure that you are moving past the family physician who deals with general medical needs and securing the opinions, diagnosis, and care of specialists if injuries are severe or lasting.
Traumatic injury arising from motor vehicle collision often involves care with the following types of medical specialists:
- Orthopedic Surgeons — Orthopedic and sports medicine specialists deal with fractures, bone injuries, ligament damage, and joint injuries.
- Neurologists and Neurosurgeons — Neurological physicians deal with nerve injuries and brain injuries. Orthopedists and neurologists can both handle spinal injuries as the two practice areas overlap for this area of the body.
- Podiatrists — Foot and ankle injuries are quite typical especially in head-on crashes. Podiatrists only treat foot conditions, and they understand how foot injuries can affect overall health. In cases involving fracture, orthopedists often working alongside podiatrists to treat the foot injury.
- Reconstructive and Plastic Surgeons — In cases of scarring or burns, plastic surgeons are best suited to determine how to minimize the appearance of scars. They typically cannot confirm the best treatment options until scars have healed for twelve months. If the patient has pain or numbness around the scar, a neurologist may also be involved to assess and treat nerve damage caused by the underlying wound.
- Dentists and Maxillofacial Surgeons — Face and head trauma often produces injuries to the jaw and teeth. Dental or orthodontic care is often sufficient to repair this damage. In more severe cases, a maxillofacial surgeon may be involved. Following repairs, a future care plan should be prepared to allow collection of future dental charges. Most dental repairs are not sufficient to last a lifetime, and the victim should have money now to cover future needs.
- Physical Therapists — In most bone and joint injury cases, physical therapy is recommended by the orthopedic surgeon to restore range of motion and strength and to eliminate pain. This care is particularly beneficial and should be carefully followed by the patient.
- Chiropractors — There is some debate regarding the efficacy and propriety of chiropractic care. Chiropractic treatment certainly has provided significant benefit for many patients. Insurance adjusters and insurance defense lawyers challenge chiropractic credentials and suggest that they are not full medical doctors. It may be wise, therefore, to allow your primary-care physician or orthopedist to oversee chiropractic care and confirm that this treatment is recommended. Chiropractors typically provide medical care on a credit basis. In the absence of health insurance, this is an excellent option to confront spinal and whiplash injuries.
- Ophthalmologists — Eye injuries can be tragic. Ophthalmologists and eye surgeons can help to restore damage to the lenses, cornea, retina, optic nerve, and other components of the patient’s eye.
- Internists and General Surgeon — Injuries to the internal organs can be life threatening. Internists are often involved from the initial course of patient hospitalization. These specialists can deal with abdominal injuries, organ damage, and other systemic internal injuries.
- Psychiatrists and Psychologists — Emotional trauma arising from serious collisions can change the course of a patient’s life. Chronic pain can lead to sleep loss and clinical depression. Also, catastrophic collisions commonly result in post-traumatic stress disorder. While post-accident anxiety is somewhat common and while mild anxiety often resolves with time and perspective, psychological therapy and psychiatric care is sometimes the only way for a patient to recover emotional stability following an accident.
- Cognitive Therapists and Neuropsychologists — Blunt-force trauma to the head can result in diffuse organic brain damage. These physicians evaluate, quantify, and treat closed head injury. Following head trauma or concussion, patients sometimes experience an inability to remember important facts, inability to organize thoughts, loss of long-term and/or short-term memory, mood swings, and frightening personality changes. These specialists help to properly diagnose and overcome these injuries.
- Cardiologists — Trauma to the heart can be life threatening. Further, blunt chest trauma can increase health risks for patients already under cardiac care. These specialists document and treat collision-related heart damage.
- Vascular Surgeons — Deep wounds and severe blunt-force trauma can result in damage to veins, arteries, and the circulatory system. Vascular surgeons are typically called in to join the trauma care team when collision produces injuries requiring emergency surgery.
- Pain Management Specialists — These physicians provide permanent, ongoing care for patients who have chronic pain. Some injuries and medical conditions result in unavoidable pain on a daily basis. Pain management doctors determine a patient-specific plan for therapy and medicine that provides the safest and most effective reduction of chronic pain. Pain management plans should be carefully prepared to ensure that the victim collects all money needed for a lifetime of medically ordered pain relief.
- Pulmonologists — These specialists deal with injury to the lungs and respiratory system. Collapsed lung and other related injuries are common in vehicle collisions. A pulmonologist will treat these injuries and also help to document any permanent effects.
- Physiatrists — These physicians look at the global and systemic effect of injury on the patient’s overall health. Where an orthopedic surgeon steps in to repair a fracture, the physiatrist follows the patient after recovery, considers the effect of medicine on organ function, and is best suited to evaluate the need for future medical care and the future complications and symptoms that arise from the injury and any medications utilized during the healing process.
Recovering your health should be your first priority. By working with the proper team of medical providers, you will have the best chance of a rapid and complete recovery. Also, medical care records from specialists serve as the best and most thorough evidence in the personal injury case. This unimpeachable evidence of the nature and extent of injury gives you or your lawyers clear and compelling evidence to motivate the highest possible settlement offers or trial verdicts.