The Plain Truth About the Practice of Personal Injury Law

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Delicate Balance Between a Chiropractor and the Soft Tissue Personal Injury Claim

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Assume that an individual is involved in a personal injury auto accident and sustains a “whiplash” type injury to their neck or back. No bones are broken but pain and stiffness follow.  They were of the belief that the injury would go away in a few days but unfortunately it has not. A friend or acquaintance then suggests that they make an appointment to see a chiropractor. They may have also have consulted with a Chicago personal injury attorney to represent them for their injuries. 

From this point in time the overall situation gets a bit tricky.  Liability insurance companies are typically not impressed by soft tissue injuries that are treated by chiropractors.  The companies are usually of the belief that the patient has minimal injuries which should clear up in a few weeks without any treatment. The problem of course is if the injured seeks no treatment then their claim is not worthy of compensation.  On the other hand if they obtain minimally beneficial treatment from a chiropractor over an extended period of time their case is simply a “phony”.
Chiropractors are not medical doctors. The treatments they provide are expensive and administered frequently. Many chiropractors aggressively target their marketing towards accident victims. The perception of many in the legal and insurance professions is that while chiropractic treatment may provide temporary pain relief (as would, say, a good massage), ultimately the cost of the treatment vastly exceeds the benefits provided.

If you have suffered a back or neck injury in an auto crash,  most top Chicago personal injury attorneys recommend that you be examined by a medical doctor before you even consider seeing a chiropractor. If you have a serious injury, such as a herniated disc, torn tissues or broken bones a medical doctor will probably treat you best. This may involve a referral to an orthopedic or neurosurgeon . If you are in pain, a medical doctor can give you a prescription for the appropriate medication (chiropractors cannot prescribe medication but love to sell vitamins ). From a lawsuit perspective, it looks much better if you go to a family doctor first, rather than immediately seeking a chiropractor. True or not, it is a widely held belief in the personal injury field that people who are really hurt go to medical doctors and people who just want money go to chiropractors. See a medical doctor first. If you are cleared to see a chiropractor, you can decide after that if chiropractic care is right for you.

The real problem that follows is to determine how much Chiropractic care to receive?  Soft tissue cases are most often not worth very much. While the pain you feel from your soft tissue injury can be intense, and sometimes permanent, there are no sophisticated tests, like MRIs or CT scans, that can prove the existence, much less the degree, of your soft tissue injury. Without the objective evidence provided by these types of scans to back up your claim, your subjective complaints will often be the only proof of how badly you are hurt. Subjective complaints by a claimant without hard medical evidence are usually not well received by either insurance adjusters or juries. In these types of cases, the chiropractor can be both your best friend and worst enemy.

Most chiropractors are honorable professionals who care about the health of their patients.  On the other hand many others see an auto accident as an opportunity to make money by over treating the patient.  They will request that the patient be treated by then 4 or more times a week. Minimally improvement occurs and the treatment continues on and on.  The evil Chiropractor tells the patient to not worry about the bill since his fee will come out of the patient’s personal injury settlement  through a lien served upon the attorney and personal injury insurance company.  What the patient is not told is that the amount of the bills will exceed the value of the personal injury claim! When it comes time to settle the personal injury claim the claimant is told that he will receive little or nothing after the Chiropractor is paid.

So what is the Chicago personal injury victim to do?  The single most important part is the fact that healing from a soft tissue injury is not simply Chiropractic care but rather a combination of the care plus the passage of time to allow the injury to heal.  Do not allow the Chiropractor to continue to run the meter on you when such treatment is not providing true effective relief.  Juries can usually tell when treatment has been given for good health versus the wallet. If they determine that you have been over treated,  an otherwise valid claim can be lost.

Remember, that life is all about balance, maintain it and you will succeed.

Rick Grossman


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