Written by Steven B. Barrett, Esq.
Many clients ask me: “so what’s my case worth?” My answer is always the same. There is no magic monetary amount for any particular case. What substantially contributes to increasing or maximizing a claim’s value is the extent of medical treatment for injuries. While some accidents result in injuries requiring emergency care, hospitalization and even surgery, other injuries start with a visit to a family physician who can order MRIs, physical therapy, prescription medication and referrals to specialists such as orthopedic surgeons, neurologists and pain medicine doctors if the symptoms do not get better or worsen. The watchword is to follow the advice and protocols set by your medical providers. Many of our clients undergo therapy, injections and doctor’s appointments over an extended period. With proper and compliant treatment comes thorough documentation that substantiates the pain and suffering of the injury and, thereby, maximizes the value of claims in the eyes of insurance adjusters and jurors.
In these new and challenging times of Covid-19, many medical providers and therapists are suspending visits altogether. Indeed, with the coronavirus surge, patients may be appropriately fearful to go to a medical office or physical therapy facility that is often set up with open space and common use of machines and tables. Of course, all patients in need of regular care and treatment will be suffering if there are delays. Regular, prescribed treatment for accident injuries is also necessary to increase the chance for a full recovery. And, full and complete treatment will also maximize case value.
Of course, if the medical provider is canceling or suspending appointments and treatment due to the coronavirus, these delays should not necessarily be adverse to case values. The gap in treatment is easily explained and a return to treatment — once providers again return to normal operations — will provide the evidence of the injury and the pain and suffering. As to any of our clients’ claims, such delays will most likely extend the point at which we can resolve claims, simply because the fair and maximum value of these claims are based on the treatment provided. We do not want to settle cases if the client, her physicians, and we as counsel do not have a full and complete profile of the injury. In other words, without completing the full course of treatment, we won’t know if the injury will resolve or may be a permanent condition.
If you are avoiding care and treatment out of fear, you must do what you think is right and in consultation with your providers. If that means missing appointments, then so be it. You ultimately must feel comfortable and make the right decision for yourself. The only “however” is that you should speak to your provider. Many hospitals and physician offices that remain operational and open are also addressing the crisis. There are pre-appointment surveys that patients must take before appearing at an appointment. Also, many visits might be done via videoconferencing or simply a conference call (otherwise known as telemedicine). Aside from a physical examination, many health providers can check on medications, your status, evaluate complaints, and even prescribe medications. There are even providers who are providing masks and gloves to patients who are going to office visits, while the entire staff are likewise masked and gloved.
Here is just one example of how a physical therapy facility is again providing services:
As of Monday, March 30, 2020, all of our clinics have reopened under new safety protocols, in which our physical therapists are available to perform in-clinic treatment and we are currently accepting calls and scheduling appointments for patient visits. These protocols include new precautionary safety measures and implementation of patient screening areas that meet and exceed the recommended guidelines from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). A list of our specific measures is included in this email and can be found on our website in our COVID-19 information section. Our website also includes a short video which details the new process a patient will experience upon visiting our clinics.
We have also introduced a new TeleHealth service as of Monday, March 30, 2020, to accommodate patients who may be unable to visit a clinic setting, or for higher-risk patients, such as those over age 65, or those who are immunocompromised, to obtain treatment until such time that they are able to obtain in-clinic therapy. Many insurance providers have recently relaxed their requirements to allow for payment and wider use of TeleHealth Services. The Services area of our website provides additional details about TeleHealth, its ease of use, as well as insurance coverages, length of treatment sessions and the differences between TeleHealth and In-Clinic visits. Please contact any of our clinics directly to learn more and see if TeleHealth is the right choice to achieve your recovery goals.
In short, make sure you are fully informed when canceling or postponing an office visit. The important thing is to be diligent about getting treatment when it is safe to do so. In either case – whether the medical provider has cancelled your appointment or you choose to do so, it is important that you keep us fully informed, and be diligent about trying to get the first available appointment that you can. If you have any questions about treating, we are always available to discuss your concerns. We want you safe first and foremost.