Anybody that has watched TV for more than fifteen minutes can recite the Miranda warnings from all the cop shows; I bet you know them … “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you …” you get the picture. But, what does that have to do with a Workers Compensation (or personal injury) claim? Everything!
Injured folks are constantly talking to doctors and nurses who make notes and then place those notes into your records or on your chart. Sometimes, they even quote what you say. I recently litigated a cancer case where the other side actually brought up that a my client, suffering from leukemia due to a workplace toxic exposure, told a doctor that he was doing “fine” when the doctor asked him how he was!
Everything you say to medical care provider (doctor, nurse, PA, everybody) has the potential of ending up in charts that will be read and scrutinized by lawyers at a later date. Who can forget the antics that Elaine, from the TV show Seinfeld, went through to see her own medical chart and then how she was blackballed by other doctors for looking at it; maybe funny on TV, but very serious in the world of personal injury and workers compensation.
Sometimes, what is just as important as what you say is what you don’t say. If you fall at work and break your leg, but fail to mention that you hit your head, or shoulder when you fell, it gives the other side the chance to argue that you did not actually hurt that body part in the accident.
Here are some rules of thumb for when you speak to all medical providers:
- Everything you say might be placed in the medical record so speak carefully
- Never lie or exaggerate, but don’t hesitate to tell them that something hurts and the more specific you are the better
- Doctors rarely will purposely misdiagnose or change a diagnosis just because they work for one side or the other; however, the employer/insurer’s medical opinion may tilt heavily towards the person paying the bills. Keep this in mind.
- Be very friendly to the office staff and doctors. If you are sincere, friendly and honest to everybody they will spend more time with you and listen more carefully to what you are saying.
- Some of the tests and questions the doctors send your way are designed to see if you are being truthful. They know a lot more about how things are connected in your body than you and I do, but if you are being completely truthful it is less of a problem.
- Not all doctors have good bedside manner or want to engage in small talk, such is life
- Write down specific problems, complaints and questions, before you go to the appointment and take them with you. It saves everybody time and you don’t forget to bring up important points
- Mention problems with other body parts and let them see if they are related. For example, neck, back and shoulder injuries often result in other body parts having symptoms. These may or may not be related, let the doctors decide
- Tell them about any medications you take, even if embarrassing. Not telling them could actually hurt or kill you due to a drug interaction
- 10. And finally, never, ever, ever tell them you are “fine” … unless you really are … if you were fine you wouldn’t be talking to a doctor, now would you?
By Ken Berman