Many people who are injured in an accident, be it a car wreck, a slip and fall, or a work-related incident, do not understand how the system works. For that matter, I wonder if many physicians understand.
In Alabama, if you are injured in a car wreck, you will typically go to a hospital or a doctor. Now, if your injures are cervical strain (commonly known as whiplash) or some type of back injury, you cannot just get up before a judge or jury and tell them you hurt your back or neck in the collision. It is up to a medical professional to testify that the wreck either caused the injury or made your existing symptoms worse.
So, if the case cannot be settled before filing a lawsuit, we are forced to either take the doctor’s deposition or bring him/her to trial (due to their benefit to society, doctors are allowed to appear in court by deposition so they do not have to come down to the courthouse to testify). When we take that doctor’s deposition, it is essential for the doctor to state that the accident "more likely than not" caused or exacerbated the injury.
Many doctors testify, "It’s possible" or "I just couldn’t say" or "No, it didn’t." None of these cut it for their patient, and as a result, their patient will not be compensated for his/her injuries. While I am not naive enough to think that some people who are in car accidents or other types of incidents where they could be injured lie about their situation in order to gain money, I do not think it happens as often as some people may think.
We all have degenerative changes in our backs and necks when we reach a certain age. However, some are symptomatic (we feel them), and some aren’t (we have no symptoms). But, then a wreck occurs, and we start having nagging pains. At that point in time, we start seeing the physician. Shouldn’t the physician take the patient at his/her word that she wasn’t having this pain before the wreck, and now she is. Is it so difficult for a doctor to say that based upon the patient’s history, it is more likely than not that the wreck caused or contributed to the injuries rather than simply saying, "It’s possible?"
Recently, we had a client go to a doctor who stated her injuries were absolutely not related to the wreck, but she needed surgery. She decided to get a second opinion, and that doctor thought that it was related to the wreck and that she needed surgery. If she stayed with the first doctor, she wouldn’t be compensated. Since she went to the other doctor, she did receive compensation. But, many people cannot afford to go to one, much less two doctors.
Why do you think some physicians don’t want to help their patients? No one is asking the physician to lie. Pain is subjective. If a patient wasn’t having pain before the wreck and is now, what is so hard about saying it’s likely the accident caused the pain? The doctor is not being asked to say "definitely" or "beyond a reasonable doubt".
What are your thoughts?