Working with Doctors
This article is entitled working with doctors, and it is aimed mostly at personal injury lawyers, but even if you don’t handle injury cases, I think some of the lessons can be applied no matter the practice area.
In an injury case, it is critical to know who your clients are treating with and keep in communication with those doctors. The medical treatment (not just the bills as most people think) is crucial to a successful outcome in an injury case.
Lets’s face it, doctors treat the patient and are unconcerned about the legal system. But lawyers must present the case in court. Doesn’t it make sense to try to present the best case possible? In other practice areas, you must maintain communication with the professionals in the case. Perhaps it is a pre-trial officer in a sentencing case or counselor in a divorce case — these people will have a huge impact on the result you obtain for your client.
In our practice, we want to know exactly what treatment our client is receiving. If our client has back and neck pain, we want them in physical therapy immediately, not after 60 days. If the client’s doctor will not write a prescription for PT, we will send the client to a doctor who will. If the client is complaining of numbness and tingling in their fingers, they need an MRI, and they need a doctor who will refer them for this test.
Another example is when our client is treating with a doctor who does a lot of consultations for insurance companies. There are doctors who make over half their income on medical legal consultations and most of that is on behalf of insurance companies. This is not the doctor I want testifying about my client’s injury, care, treatment and prognosis.
We have other clients who clearly need referrals to other professionals. For example, few primary care doctors will recognize or refer someone with PTSD following an accident. If a client is unable to perform the activities of daily living, we need to address that for the benefit of the client, but also the benefit of the case.
It is important to communicate with the doctor the legal facts of the case. For example, is liability clear or is it contested? What are the limits of insurance coverage? Is there med pay available? These are all important considerations in a legal case, which a doctor would not otherwise be concerned with.
In our practice, we have found communication with our client’s treating doctors is very important and has resulted in better recoveries for our clients than if we allowed treatment to progress as if there is no legal case involved. You should consider doing the same when working with doctors.