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Why Your Medical Records Matter in Personal Injury Cases

The subject has come up too many times in the past couple weeks where clients are disputing what is documented in their medical records that were written by their own treating physicians. I will admit, prior to becoming an attorney in South Carolina, I would trust what the doctor told me in the private setting of the examination room. As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend.”

It does not matter if you are being assisted by Medshore EMS at the scene of a motor vehicle collision or talking to your long time AnMed Family Medicine physician, those medical providers are documenting everything you tell them. As a matter of fact, the Federal Government has mandated all records be made digitally so you can even read the physician’s handwriting. Well that wasn’t their main reason for doing it but it sure has helped in reading Dr. Wadee’s records.

You have the right to request your medical records and you should do that on a quarterly to annual basis depending upon your frequency in medical treatment. (No, the discharge or checkout paper you get does not count as a medical record that is important.) It will help you see what information is documented from your visit with medical providers and also help ensure that your medical concerns and complaints are actually being addressed. Let me provide a news flash when that may become relevant…IN A PERSONAL INJURYCASE! 

If you are involved in some kind of traumatic incident (workers’ compensation claim, car wreck, dog bite, slip & fall, product liability claim, nursing home negligence, or medical malpractice case) and claim the injuries you sustained from that incident are all because of that traumatic incident, you have to prove it to be reimbursed by the evil insurance companies. Your back may be hurting but if just the week before you were complaining of back pains, the question becomes how much more, if any, is your back hurting from the traumatic incident. Don’t come in telling me your life is changed forever for the worst because of this traumatic incident but have no medical documentation to prove that claim.

As an attorney, I can not tell the evil insurance company that your doctor told you it was all because of the traumatic incident. Shockingly, the evil empire would not believe me or you. However, the evil tryanny sometimes believes what is in the medical records. Not all the time but let’s not get caught up in the fact that the evil empire will have a 22 year old college, educated adjuster make medical diagnosis and decisions. We will save that subject for another article.

Today, your take away is this:

  • You are legally entitled to a copy of your medical records,regardless if you owe a balance to the medical provider. Now there may be a copying charge or retrieval fee but you are still entitled to those printed and detailed records, along with your itemized bills. Click here to print off this page, if the gate keeper at your medical facility doesn’t believe you.
  • Do you really know what your doctor has documented? What do you think your doctor will depend on as the truth a year from their visit with you if asked by a lawyer? That exact conversation or their medical records?
  • What is documented in your medical records will help your recovery from a traumatic incident or help the evil empire against your recovery. So, if you are experience back pain, emotional trauma, sleepless nights, relationship troubles, and so forth, I better read it in the medical records or it is not happening!

***When I Googled “evil insurance companies” there was a link with a discussion of whether insurance companies were evil or stupid.  Although it was about health care, the liability insurance carriers are designed the same way, maximize return to their shareholders while minimizing the payout of claims (YOUR CLAIM). I thought this was a very interesting response:

Doug Dingus, Everybody pays, everybody covered

622 Views

Insurance companies have a basic conflict with us in that their goal is to maximize for the shareholders, and that happens best when they deliver the least health care access for the most dollars.

So, the answer is by design, but said design is an artifact of our health care policy, meaning they are neither stupid or evil.

We can remedy this with regulation, or public primary care insurance, or competition, depending on how said competition is structured

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Crash Course: Personal Injury Law

You’ve probably seen and heard a lot of commercials for law firms. Many of them insult your intelligence with cartoonish catchphrases or screaming phone numbers but they don’t actually talk about practicing law. At Trammell & Mills, we don’t play those games. We treat our profession—and your legal issues—with respect.
Our law firm is dedicated to the practice of Personal Injury Law. That means we fight to protect the rights of people like you who suffer serious injuries caused by others or by faulty products and get them paid fairly. We don’t handle criminal defense cases, divorces, or DUI charges. Our goal is to get injured people the money they deserve. Here’s a quick crash course on the client categories we cover:
Workers’ Compensation – Lots of people suffer injuries while at work. If you get hurt on the job, your employer is supposed to file an insurance claim so you can keep getting paid while you recover. But some companies drag their feet and greedy insurance companies don’t want to pay anyone anything any time. We know the law and we can help cut through the red tape to push along the payment process.
Car and Truck Crashes – Wrecks happen every day on interstates and side streets. All too often, car and truck drivers are distracted or just careless. If you become a victim in a wreck, cooperate with the police and exchange insurance information. Don’t be afraid to seek medical attention if you have injuries. Don’t ever take advice from the at fault driver’s insurance company, that is like listening to the Devil on how to get to Heaven. Then contact us, so we can make sure you get fairly paid for any medical bills, lost wages, or scars and to keep watch on your insurance claim process.
Slip & Falls and Dog Bites – Some accidents occur on other people’s property. When this happens, whether it’s an injury from falling or a bite from someone else’s dog, the owner needs to be held responsible. We apply the law to hold them legally liable, so you get paid what they owe you.
Defective Products, Vehicles, or Machinery – Sometimes, a product you buy just doesn’t work properly. It could be a car, or a power tool, or a household appliance. When you get injured as a result, the manufacturer or seller needs to compensate you for your expenses. That can be a tricky process, so you need legal help to make your claim.
Nursing Home Abuse – When an elderly relative needs the assistance of a nursing home, you trust and expect them to live there safely. Sadly, that’s not always the case. If you suspect any kind of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment- call us immediately. After an investigation, we’ll prosecute any heartless abusers aggressively. Our elders deserve better than that, and nobody should tolerate it.
If you suffer a personal injury in any of these categories, we’d be honored to put more than 50 years of legal experience to work for you. We’re local attorneys based in the Upstate, and we’re ready to help. Call Trammell & Mills at (864) 485-8585 to take proper legal action for your injury, so you can get the payment you deserve.

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Crashes and Falls Leading Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injuries are said to be the leading cause of death in South Carolinians from the ages of 1-44, per statistics from the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina. The known leading causes for TBI are said to be falls and motor vehicle collisions according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

As illustrated in a recent article in The Greenville News, TBI affects a range of cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical functions, which can include anything from problems with short-term memory, personality changes and speech impediment to lack of coordination and persistent fatigue.  As awareness of these type injuries is increasing, there are still believed to be over 60,000 South Carolinians living with traumatic brain injuries.

Rebecca Hadel was in a t-bone collision when she sustained a traumatic brain injury, along with other severe physical injuries. The Greenville News article, “Recovering, Step by Step”, highlights her personal story along with information about TBI.  As Hadel states in the article:

“Brain injuries don’t ever go away…”

 

To learn more about traumatic brain injuries and the resources available, click on any of the below links:

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Injured at Work in South Carolina? What you need to know. (Part 1)

This is the first of a series of blogs written to tell workers in South Carolina what they need to do if they suffer a work-related injury.

  1.  Report your work-related injury immediately!

The most important advice that I can give an injured worker is to report the injury to his supervisor immediately and to make sure that the injury is documented by the employer.  While the law only requires the injured worker to report the injury within 90 days of the occurrence, the practical effect is that most employers will deny the injured worker’s claim if the injury is not reported immediately.

Having represented only injured workers for more than 29 years, I can’t count the number of times that a potential client came to see me because his workers’ compensation claim had been denied by his employer solely due to the fact that he had waited a few days to report his work injury.  The most common excuse given to me is this:

“I thought I had only strained my back and that it would get better in a couple of days so I did not tell anybody about my accident.  It was only after it did not get better that I decided to say something about it to my boss.”

While the excuse may sound reasonable to the employee, it often gets him in trouble when he subsequently decides to report the injury.

How does it get the injured worker in trouble? 

  • First, the delay in reporting the accident gives the employer greater reason for questioning whether the worker truly got hurt at work.  After the injury is reported, the employer will likely investigate the accident by questioning co-workers.  If the worker did not say anything when he got hurt, there will not be any co-workers to confirm his injury claim.   Even if the injured worker did say something to his co-workers when the injury occurred a few days earlier, they may, as a practical matter, be too afraid to speak up on his behalf to the employer for fear of job retaliation.  It is an easy way out for the co-worker to simply say to the employer that “I don’t remember it.”  I have even seen some co-workers try to gain favor in the eyes of the employer by saying that the injured worker told them that he had gotten hurt at home rather than at work.  The bottom line is that a delay in reporting the accident by the injured worker gives the employer justification to question the injured worker’s credibility and to deny the claim.
  • Second, some companies even have a policy that requires injured workers to report their injuries immediately to the company.  Failure to report the work accident immediately is deemed to be a violation of company policy for which the injured worker may be terminated.  Therefore, the worker who does not report his work accident immediately because he fears that he may get fired by his employer for getting hurt at work (which is against the law for the employer to do in South Carolina) actually gets fired for violating company policy when he reports the accident late.

In conclusion, it is imperative for the injured worker to report his accident at work immediately to his employer regardless of how insignificant he may initially think that his injury will be.  Often the very severe pain from an injury such as a back strain may not arise until the following morning.

How many times have you gone out and done some strenuous work or exercise only to feel a little sore immediately after you finished, but then felt like you could not move the next morning when you woke up?  Don’t take the chance.  Report the injury immediately!

My next blog will be about the importance of the medical history that you give to the physician when you go for medical treatment after you have suffered a work related injury.

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Summer, The Most Dangerous Driving Season

We love so many things about summer.  School is out, the weather is great, the lakes and beaches are inviting us to get away and enjoy some much needed down time.  Summer also means more cars on the road, which can easily make it the most dangerous driving season of the year.

According to the South Carolina Public Safety Traffic Collision Fact Book, there’s a traffic collision every 3.7 minutes in this state.  Every 13.5 minutes, one of those wrecks causes an injury.  And every 9.5 hours, a crash involves a death—of a driver, passenger, bike rider, or a person not even in a vehicle.  Teenage drivers age 15-19 are in fatal or injury collisions every 90 minutes in South Carolina.

More motorcycles are on the road during summer, and their numbers aren’t any better.  Fatal motorcycles crashes rose sharply in 2021, higher than it’s been in decades.  Last year saw 154 motorcycle deaths, which is more than any year since 1980—the first year South Carolina compiled its Collision Fact Book.  By comparison, there were 116 in 2020.

There are several main causes for these wrecks and alcohol is high on the list.  The Centers for Disease Control ranks South Carolina 10th highest among all states in alcohol-related deaths, which is unusually high for its population.  In 2019, this state had 276 traffic deaths involving alcohol, and that number jumped to 315 in 2020.  Drinking increased during the Covid pandemic, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving attributes the rise in fatalities to more people being on the road since restrictions relaxed.

Speed is certainly a factor in summer traffic crashes.  People are in a hurry to get where they’re going, and summer trips are no exception.  They want to get out of town and start their vacations as soon as possible.  Many drivers push beyond speed limits, which leads to senseless crashes and injuries.  And one of the biggest factors is distracted driving.  Cell phones are one of the worst distractions for any driver, and glancing at a phone screen for just a second can lead to a fatal accident.

So, what can you do to help make road travel safer in the summer?  We can all slow down and obey posted speed limits—on interstates, smaller highways, and on streets in any town.  Combining drinking and driving is always a bad idea, so make sure there are designated drivers in every group.  Wearing a motorcycle helmet can reduce your chance of injury by 37%.  Most importantly, put down the phone while driving, so you can pay full attention to the road in front of you and the other drivers around you.

If you’re in a wreck, call the police—and get medical treatment if you are injured. Make a video recording of the other driver and get them to provide an account of what happened. If they won’t do that, at least call 911 to have the local authorities or SC Highway Patrol make an official record of the collision. Keep in mind, if it ain’t documented the at fault insurance company will say it didn’t happen. If you’re an accident victim, don’t hesitate to call Trammell & Mills at (864) 485-8585 to get the medical and financial compensation you deserve.  Be careful out there, and have a safe summer on the road!

 

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