Ask the Personal Injury Lawyer a Question – Doctor’s Opinion Letter

Ask a Personal Injury Attorney

My family doctor won't write an opinion letter...
Why? What should I do next?

I was in a car accident that wasn’t my fault. I went to my family doctor and told her that I was in an accident. She treated me for my injuries, but now she won’t write an opinion letter for my case. What can I do?

In order to prove a personal injury case, you not only have to prove that the other party was at fault and caused the accident, you also have to prove that the accident was the cause of your injuries and symptoms following the accident. If you have a broken bone or lacerations, the cause of your injuries is obvious. However, if you have injuries that cause neck or back pain, it becomes more complicated to prove that the accident caused your symptoms. If you ever had any medical or chiropractic treatment for symptoms in the same area(s) of your body prior to the accident, it becomes even more complicated to prove that the accident caused your post-accident symptoms. In this situation, you will need a doctor’s opinion to prove your case.

Unfortunately, it has become much more common in recent years for doctors to refuse to write opinion letters to back up their patients’ cases when their patients are injured in auto accidents. Some doctors will even refuse to treat patients for auto accident-caused injuries to avoid the legal process. We would actually rather doctors refuse to treat auto accident victims than agree to treat the patient then leave them hanging out to dry when it comes to proving their case.

But what can you do if your doctor has treated you for months or even years after an auto accident but refuses to write an opinion letter on your behalf? If you find yourself in this situation, you have two options. First, you can switch doctors. Second, you can hire a physician to review your records, perform a physical examination and give an opinion regarding the cause of your injuries and symptoms. Neither of these options is very desirable. It is of course much better to have your longtime treating physician give their opinion than a doctor you switched to late in the game or a physician that is hired primarily or exclusively for your legal case.

The best way to avoid this problem is to ask your physician as soon as possible following an auto accident whether she/he will refuse to give an opinion regarding the cause of your injuries and symptoms if necessary. Some medical providers simply refuse to assist in the legal process. (We feel that a blanket refusal is ethically impermissible, but that is a whole other discussion.) It is better to know at the beginning whether your physician will or will not assist you with your legal case if necessary so that you can make a wise decision regarding your treatment and avoid a costly problem later on.

©Daniel D. Mason at Giardini, Poplar & Mason, LLC

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