Injury Claims and Alternative Medical Care
The crash was not your fault. Your neck or back were fine before the collision, but now you hurt like there is no tomorrow. You go to the emergency room, but it seems like before you even get home that you are getting calls and being solicited to get treatment for your pain. You need to get well and get back to work. You can’t afford to be off work, get your car fixed, and pay for medical care. The papers handed to you at the ER say that you should follow-up with a medical doctor. But, you keep getting calls and post cards from people who are not medical doctors who say they can fix you up and that it won’t cost that much, and you know that medical doctors are not free.
This is a scenario we hear almost daily. You can find all kinds of advice from attorneys and others on the internet about the pros and cons of nurse practitioners, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and others. But if you are pursuing an injury claim, or are at least thinking that you may need to pursue one, then your decision making needs to include sound legal counsel, not just where you can find the cheapest help with your symptoms and pain.
From a legal perspective, is there a difference in what medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, or nurse practitioners can say in court? You bet. Historically, courts grant medical doctors the greatest leeway to express opinions on how you got hurt in the crash. An element of every injury claim includes something called “medical causation”. It is a fancy term that focuses on whether your pain and symptoms are the result of the crash, or are due to something else unrelated to the crash.
Courts traditionally place limits on what chiropractors and nurses can testify to, on the theory that neither has the “years of training and expertise” to determine medical causation. Similar restrictions are placed on what an acupuncturist, or massage therapist can testify about. … So aside from whether you should seek treatment for your pain from someone who searches for accident reports and solicits your business, or whether you should rely on the referral of a friend, or simply rely on a home remedy, somehow, someway, in most cases (there are always exceptions to every rule) a qualified medical doctor needs to be involved in your care before you step into the courtroom to prove your case.
But aside from legal concerns, if you had a serious medical emergency, would you want to go to an emergency room staffed only with alternative medical care providers? If you’re on a stretcher in the ambulance, are you going to tell them to rush you to an alternate care provider who left a voicemail message on your phone while you were being pried out of the wreck? … In our experience, alternate care providers, if involved and under the direction of a medical doctor who supervises care, such as physical therapy, injections, range of motion testing, etc., can be a good approach to recovering from an injury and being well prepared to present your case in court. But, remove the medical doctor from the mix, and not only could you be risking your health, you could unknowingly undercut your legal claim.