How a Gap in Medical Treatment Can Affect a Personal Injury Claim
As personal injury lawyers with decades of experience practicing law, we have seen the scenario many times: A person is injured in an accident that was not their fault. They sought medical help and were diagnosed with an injury. But later, they missed a physical therapy appointment or forgot to fill a prescription. Without a knowledgeable lawyer to defend them, that small misstep could cost them thousands of dollars in a personal injury claim.
We frequently meet with clients who ask questions about the infamous “gaps” which can be pinpointed in a medical treatment timeline and exploited by insurance companies. Is it true that a missed doctor’s appointment can destroy the value of a personal injury claim? Let’s take a closer look at what medical treatment gaps really are and how they can affect a personal injury claim. For any additional questions, feel free to contact Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC to speak with a Baltimore, MD personal injury lawyer about your case.
What Defines a Gap and How It Affects Your Claim
A “gap,” in this scenario, is a period of time during which you do not receive medical treatment. In a personal injury case, the insurance company assigns an insurance adjuster to evaluate and make a determination on the value of your claim. Because part of the insurance adjuster’s job is to protect the company and minimize payout, they will scrutinize your claim for ways to devalue it.
A gap in medical treatment is one piece of evidence they can use in an attempt to reduce the value of your claim. When assessing your personal injury claim, insurance adjusters may point out either of the following two time periods as a gap in your medical treatment:
- The time period between your injury and initial doctor visit
- Any prolonged period between an initial doctor’s appointment and later follow-up visits
An insurance claims adjuster will try to use a gap as evidence that your injuries are less severe than you claim, or even that your injuries don’t exist. For example, if you are injured in a car accident but do not see a physician until a month after your injuries, the case can be made that you were not truly experiencing any physical problems—otherwise, you would have gone to the hospital right away.
In the case of the second type of gap, you may have taken action to see a doctor immediately after the accident causing injury, but then did not attend a follow-up appointment for several months. Regardless of the reason, this gap in treatment could be used as an indication that your injuries were not severe enough to cause significant damage.
Reasons for a Gap
There are many legitimate reasons for gaps to exist in a personal injury victim’s healthcare timeline. Some people experience unrelated illnesses, family concerns, transportation issues, or other unavoidable matters which prevent them from making their medical appointments. The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic upended conventional expectations and made the once relatively-straightforward process of scheduling a doctor’s visit difficult and sometimes impossible. Even work travel, family vacations, sick relatives, weddings, funerals, graduations, and moving or changing jobs will cause disruptions to the regularity of scheduled doctor’s appointments.
Being injured does not mean that your life will come to a complete halt. But insurance adjusters can manipulate facts about the things you do outside of your doctor’s appointments to undermine your claim. That’s why it is so important to communicate thoroughly and frequently with your Baltimore personal injury lawyer. Advocate for yourself so your attorney can advocate for you.
Tips for Managing Your Medical Care in a Personal Injury Case
We strive to empower our clients to do all they can to put themselves on a path of success toward optimum health and maximum recovery of damages. When it comes to health and legal matters, being attentive, dutiful, conscientious, and proactive makes all the difference. The following tips can help personal injury victims safeguard their wellbeing and defend their rights:
- Always seek medical attention immediately after sustaining an injury, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the moment.
- Be honest about your pain. There is no need to act tough in front of a doctor.
- Schedule and attend regular follow-up visits to track your progress and keep communications open with your physician.
- Be candid with your doctor about any reasons you may have missed an appointment. Your physician can make notes about why there was a delay in treatment.
- Contact your healthcare provider promptly if you experience new or worsening symptoms.
- Do not return to work until your doctor has cleared you to do so.
- Keep a journal to track your pain, symptoms, progress, and changing conditions. This information will be beneficial to both your doctor and your attorney.
- Keep neat, accurate records of your appointment schedule and copies of test results, physician’s notes, and other documented evidence of your healthcare.
- Fill and take all medications your doctor prescribes on schedule.
- Pursue any therapy or rehabilitation options your healthcare provider recommends.
- Seek counseling, therapy, or mental health care if you are experiencing psychological or emotional distress following your injury.
- Know your physical limits and do not engage in any activities that could risk your health.
- Refrain from posting anything on social media that seemingly shows you to be healthy and enjoying life, being elsewhere when you should be at a doctor’s appointment, or participating in physical activities too strenuous for your condition.
- Consider changing your social media privacy settings, taking time away from communication apps, and asking friends and family to avoid referring to you or your condition in their posts.
Get Expert Legal Advice from Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC
The best reason to properly manage your healthcare regimen is to protect your health. Your physical wellbeing is the all-important issue following an injury-causing accident. You may have been hurt in a work-related event, car or other vehicle accident, medical malpractice case, or slip and fall incident. No matter the cause of your injury, your priorities should be recovering your health and recovering the losses you sustained. It is our goal at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC to help you do just that. Contact our office today to schedule a free discussion with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.