Importance Of Medical Evidence In A Personal Injury Claim
You suffered serious injuries, including broken bones and a herniated disc, because a distracted driver ran through a stop sign and crashed into your car. It might seem unfair that the lawyers and insurance adjuster representing the negligent driver want to see your medical records before discussing settlement of your claim for damages, but medical evidence is a key component to the success or failure of a claim for personal injuries. As unfair as it seems, your personal injury attorney has the legal burden of producing evidence to prove the negligence of the other party and the injuries it caused you to suffer in order for you to recover compensation.
Plaintiff’s burden of proof in a personal injury case
As the injured party making a claim for damages against someone whose negligence or reckless behavior caused you to be harmed, you are referred to as the plaintiff, and the other party is the defendant. As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proving the wrongful conduct of the defendant and the harm it caused you by producing evidence of the following:
- The existence of a duty of care owed to you by the defendant
- A breach of that duty
- The breach of duty was the proximate cause harm to you
- Your entitlement to damages due to the injuries you suffered
For example, drivers have a legal duty to obey South Carolina traffic laws and maintain control over their vehicles at all times in order to avoid causing harm to other vehicles and people making use of the roads. Witnesses testifying about seeing a motorist ignoring a stop sign and crashing into your vehicle would be proof of the breach of the motorist’s legal duty and that breach being the cause of the collision.
Proving the harm caused to you by the crash requires medical evidence. It is not enough for you to state that your back hurts. Your personal injury attorney must provide evidence of the existence of an injury, its connection to the accident and that it is responsible for the pain and disability forming the basis of your claim for damages.
Medical evidence and proving damages
Medical evidence takes the form of the documentation regarding the physical examinations and diagnostic tests conducted by the medical professionals that treated your injuries. Medical evidence includes the following:
- Notes in your patient charts made by physicians, nurses and other health care professionals you consulted about your injuries
- Emergency department records
- Written reports from emergency medical personnel of a victim’s condition and the care provided by them at the scene of an accident
- Surgical notes pertaining to procedures related to your injuries
- X-rays, CT scans, and results of other diagnostic testing performed at the request of your doctors
- Laboratory analysis results, including blood tests
- Notes and charts from physical and occupational therapists
Medical evidence establishes a continuous course of treatment beginning from the date of the accident or from the date that you were first seen by a doctor. The examination notes from a physician documenting the existence of your injuries on or as close to the date of the accident as reasonably possible help to establish a connection between the accident and those injuries.
The records about the medical treatment you received after an accident can help to prove the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Cost of prescription medications
- Rehabilitation and therapy expenses
- Lost wages as a result of being unable to work due to the injuries
Medical records and the notes in them from your physicians help to prove your entitlement to recover for pain and suffering or mental anguish caused by the injuries suffered in an accident. The doctor’s notes offer documentation of your complaints of pain over the time that you were being treated.
Medical evidence of prior medical treatment
During the course of its investigation into the accident, an insurance company might discover evidence that you had a prior injury and blame it for the pain, disability or severity of your most recent injuries. The defense will demand your prior medical records to support its allegation of a preexisting condition for which it should not be held responsible.
A prior injury does not necessarily preclude you from receiving compensation. The old medical records and doctors notes can be used to prove either that the injuries are unrelated to each other or that the most recent accident exacerbated the preexisting condition
Delays or breaks in medical treatment can hurt your claim
The value of medical records to prove the link between an accident and your present physical condition is severely impaired when you delay seeking a medical evaluation after an accident or when there are gaps in the medical records because you stopped going for treatment. Depending upon the severity of your injuries, going to a hospital emergency department directly from the scene of the accident or being evaluated at a doctor’s office right away is the best way to ensure that your medical condition is properly documented.
Once treatment has been started with your doctors, it is essential to your claim for damages to continue uninterrupted treatment for as long as is recommended by your medical professionals. Missing appointments with your doctor or for physical therapy could be used by the defense as evidence that your injuries were not as severe as is represented in your personal injury claim.
The best course of action following an accident is to promptly obtain a medical evaluation and to retain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you. The legal advice and guidance provided by your attorney can ensure proper documentation of all of your injuries to establish the medical evidence needed to successfully pursue your personal injury claim.
With offices in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter, we are here when you need us. If you or a loved one has been injured, call us today at 888-353-5513 for a free consultation.