When you are injured in an accident, it is extremely important to your personal injury claim to seek medical treatment and to continue to be treated by a doctor until you have reached maximum medical improvement. This is because the medical report from your doctor will form the basis of your claim for compensation.
Sometimes, however, it may be necessary to switch doctors while you are being treated for your injuries. But beware, doing this too often can negatively affect your personal injury case; just ask any car accident attorney in California. Here’s is an explanation of how and why.
Doctor Shopping After a Car Accident
Sometimes, you may wish to change doctors because you can longer afford his or her treatment or for some other reason you feel as though you need a change. Doing this too often can make it appear that you are “shopping” for a doctor who will give the best report and testimony for your case. If you changed doctors three times because the first three doctors say that your back pain was not caused by the accident and the fourth one finally said that it was, the jury will probably be very wary of believing your fourth doctor’s testimony.
Although it can be problematic when your current doctor has an opinion that does not support your case or refuses to participate in litigation, it can be equally (or even more) problematic to go shopping for one who supports your position, because then both you and the doctor you finally find will look bad in the eyes of the jury.
So, when the situation arises that you cannot afford treatment, or for some other reason you feel as though you want to change doctors, you should discuss the matter with your attorney so that he or she can take the steps necessary to minimize the negative effects that it might have on your case.
Doctor Shopping by the Insurance Company
It is not uncommon for an insurance company to require you to have an independent medical examination (IME) after an accident in which you have been injured, usually with their own doctor. This is not unreasonable since they may have to pay you thousands of dollars for your injury claim.
What is unreasonable and unacceptable, however, is when the insurance company doesn’t like the opinion they receive from the IME and requires you to take another one. Some insurance company will continue to do this until they receive an opinion that is in their favor and that will give them grounds to refuse your claim.
Although the law can be quite vague in regards to this kind of doctor shopping by insurance companies, it is unethical and may be grounds for you to seek compensation under the state’s bad faith laws. Courts do not approve of insurance companies who act in bad faith when settling legitimate claims and often penalize them with judgments that are many times larger than the original claim.
So, if you feel that the insurance company is requesting that you seek too many IMEs, you should stop attending them immediately and contact a qualified personal injury attorney who is experienced in bad faith lawsuits.