The doctor you see after you are injured in an auto accident has two responsibilities:
1) To help you recover as much as possible.
2) To gather documentation of your injury.
You should see a doctor as soon after your accident as possible, even if you aren’t “that hurt.” It often takes up to a few days for you to realize the extent of your injuries, and delaying health care not only hurts your case, it could hurt you, too.
When you visit the doctor, he or she will probably recommend diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI, since it’s much more difficult for insurance companies to dispute a picture of your injury. The doctor may also prescribe physical therapy and pain medication, and if that is the case, be sure to do both as directed. Insurance companies take note if you miss physical therapy appointments or refuse medication, and that translates directly to how much they are willing to compensate you for pain and suffering.
However – while it’s true that much of your pain and suffering compensation is based on your medical bills, acquiring too many expensive tests (when unnecessary) will send up a red flag to insurance adjusters. Similarly, it’s important that your doctor recommend physical therapy and medications as treatment, rather than you requesting them.
Your treatment will last until you feel better, and your doctor will be taking notes to build your file along the way. It will help you and your doctor if you keep a daily journal of how you are feeling, where and how much you are hurting, and what physical therapies you are doing. The more information you can supply your doctor, the better he or she will be able to help you and your case.
After you and your doctor agree that you have recovered as much as possible, the doctor will write a lengthy report stating the extent of your injuries, what diagnostic steps were taken, what treatment was recommended, prescribed and followed, and what your health prognosis is for the future. Your doctor may say your symptoms are likely to relapse in the future and could require additional care at that time, getting you more money from your settlement now to pay for medical expenses later. Don’t use the extra money to go on vacation – you really could need it.