Going to a doctor after you’ve been injured might seem like a simple decision.
But it turns out that the doctor you see after your injury can end up impacting whether you are successful with a court case related to the injury.
The doctor you choose is important for many reasons:
- They determine what medical care you’ll get for the injury, which can impact how fast you will recover from your injuries.
- The doctor and his staff will prepare medical reports that may be used in future court cases related to your injury.
- They will participate in defining if you can return to work, and, if you can, the work tasks that you can safely perform while recovering.
- The doctor you choose will refer you to specialists if appropriate.
To help you with doctor choices after an injury, we offer below some answers to some common questions about choosing a doctor after an injury.
If I am injured at work, do I have to go to the company doctor or can I choose my own doctor?
For work injuries, the laws that are most pertinent are workers compensation laws, which vary from state to state. Many states allow your company to choose a doctor for you for an initial injury review. However, generally speaking, after a work injury, even if you have been seen by a company doctor or a doctor chosen by your employer, you can still choose your own doctor. Be sure you understand your state and company rules as certain timeframes may apply.
Am I only allowed to see one doctor or can I go to specialists that my main doctor recommends?
You typically can go to specialists that are recommended by your doctor. However, in a court case, the opposing party in the injury lawsuit may argue either that the referring doctor was not qualified in making the referral or that the referred specialist did not give the appropriate treatment. There are also some very specific rules that apply as to how many referrals you can get and from whom. Talk with your local attorney to get specifics on how it works for your case in your state.
Is it OK to go to the emergency room after an injury?
Absolutely. If the injury you have is a significant medical emergency, go to an emergency room right away. For lawsuits relating to an injury, medical records from an emergency room are highly regarded because they typically are recorded within a short timeframe after the injury occurs. That tends to be more relevant than a medical record that evaluates an injury weeks after an accident.
Is it OK to switch doctors after I’ve been injured?
Yes, it’s fine to switch doctors. Just be aware that in the legal discovery process, your lawsuit opponents may ask why you switched doctors and your answer to this question may ultimately be disclosed to a judge, jury or mediator.
Should I discuss the cause of the accident with my doctor?
Generally speaking, no. Doctors are often required to testify in court. If you discussed the specifics of your case with your doctor, that discussion could potentially be used against you, even if it has nothing to do with medical treatment. For this reason, it’s best to just discuss your symptoms and not get into the details and circumstances leading up to the accident itself.
If I am suing somebody, can they make me see a doctor that they choose?
Yes, in certain scenarios, your opponent is allowed to have your medical condition be reviewed by a doctor of their choosing. If asked to do so, consult with your attorney. If your attorney says you should see the doctor, make sure you don’t miss the appointment.