When clients call seeking advice about a possible personal injury claim, my first question is — do you have witnesses? My second question is — was the injury documented in some manner? Sometimes a client has been injured, but there is not an accident report and there are no witnesses to the injury. Compounding this problem is that clients often fail to explain in detail the nature of the injury or how the injury occurred when they go to see a doctor.
If you have an undocumented or unwitnessed injury, it is critical that you explain to the treating physician at your first visit how you suffered your injury. In this way, the physician will place a notation about your injury in his or her records under patient history. If your matter goes to trial and the defendant’s insurance company contests liability or the accident itself, the doctor can provide documented proof of your injury.
For example, I had a client in Lafayette, Louisiana who suffered a back injury as the result of car accident. She failed to seek immediate treatment, failed to obtain witnesses, and failed to tell the police officer that she was injured. However, two and half months later she needed to see a doctor for her back injury. At the first meeting with her doctor, she told him that she thought the injury was the result of the automobile collision two and half months earlier. She explained that she had not sought medical help sooner because she thought the injury was going to go away. But instead the injury persisted and grew worse, and she ultimately suffered a ruptured disc. The defendant’s insurance company argued that there was no proof that the injury had occurred during the automobile accident. At trial, we put the doctor on the stand, and, based upon his notes about the “patient history,” he testified that he believed that she suffered a ruptured disc secondary to the automobile accident.
Other than the doctor’s testimony, we had no evidence that the accident had caused the ruptured disc. However, the jury accepted the doctor’s testimony that the accident had caused the ruptured disc and found in favor of my client. If you are injured by a negligent party and need to file a personal injury claim, it is critical to remember that when you seek medical help you should tell the doctor exactly how you were injured.