Interviewer: Do you see people make other mistakes that hurt their ability to get fair and adequate compensation in their claims?
Roy Comer: One major issue is that people fail to go to the doctor soon enough after the collision to get checked out. I just recently talked to someone who was in an accident two weeks earlier. She hadn’t been to the doctor yet. She admitted, “I don’t really like to go to the doctor, and I didn’t think it was that bad.” Unless you have a doctor that’s going to give you a professional evaluation, you will not know the true extent of your injury and whether medical care will help you get better sooner, or if simple rest is the correct course. In the eyes of the insurance companies, if you wait too long, they will use the delay against you saying, “Well, if you’d been hurt, you would have gone to the doctor and because you didn’t go to the doctor, you must not have been hurt.”
It is Not Good Logic to Assume that Delay in Medical Consultation Means No Significant Injury
It is not good logic to conclude that because there are a lot of people that are seriously injured that don’t go to the doctor right away, this particular claimant that didn’t go to the doctor must not be hurt, too. Nonetheless, for a somewhat“routine case,” a case where the impact was not severe and injuries are suffered to the neck, back and shoulders area, if that injured person doesn’t get an evaluation soon after the collision, the insurance company will just assume that there were only very minor injuries, if any at all. That claimant runs the risk of an under-evaluated claim.
It is Imperative to See a Doctor as Soon as Possible After Suffering an Injury
Interviewer: How long is too long for someone to wait to see a doctor after they are in an accident?
Roy Comer: It depends on the severity of and the type of injury being claimed. Since the law imposes an obligation on an injured person to minimize the effects of an injury caused by someone else (the legal term is “mitigation”)it just makes good sense to act sooner rather than later. Why would an injured person delay securing some peace of mind by not seeing a doctor? There is no benefit to suffering if treatment can alleviate it. How long is too long? I’ve had clients that have gone months before going to a doctor and sometimes that has hurt their case significantly. It is to your benefit if you know a lawyer that can work up the case well and if you have a smart doctor that knows how to properly treat the injured person, it is rarely “too late”. But, generally speaking, the sooner the better because any gap between the injury and any medical care allows the defense to argue that there was some other cause of the client’s symptoms. I’ve seen this approach undertaken by insurance companies and defense attorneys. Injured people must avoid the appearance of an unnecessary and unexplained gap in treatment.
A Competent Attorney Always Advises Their Clients to Seek Medical Help Immediately Following an Accident
Frankly, this argument by the insurance companies that an unexplained or unnecessary gap in treatment works often enough to encourage them to keep using it. If the case goes to trial, they know juries can be fickle. It is sometimes no better than a “jump ball” situation. So, when I’ve been retained by an injured client, I help them understand that “there’s no time like the present” to go to the doctor so that their injuries can be evaluated and treated. The doctor’s documentation is proof of the nature and extent of the injuries caused by the collision. The doctor will do a thorough examination and will make an assessment of the injury and the need for medical care through the kind of tests necessary to diagnose the injury that’s been suffered by that client. I try to get them into the doctor as soon as possible if they haven’t already seen a doctor by the time they see me.