Delay in Doctor Visit: Waiting to See a Doctor Can Be Used Against You

Posted By on August 4, 2015

Last Update: 01/11/16

If you have been hurt in an accident (slip and fall, car crash, etc.) then you are likely in pain and need medical attention. Sometimes, you need medical care immediately after the accident, sometimes you realize that you need to see a doctor a bit later, as your injuries manifest themselves.

However, people don’t always go to the doctor right away. They may have issues with modern medicine, and don’t trust doctors. Maybe they think it will get better if they just rest and mend. Sometimes they don’t have the money to pay for the doctor visit and don’t have insurance coverage (or a policy with a really high deductible) so they delay going to the doctor.

Problem is: insurance adjusters and insurance defense lawyers don’t see things the same way as victims and the victim’s families. They see a delay in getting medical treatment as a defense argument and they’ll use it against you when you file your claim for damages against those responsible for your injuries.

 

 

Delay in Getting Medical Care After an Accident

When an accident victim files their claim for damages, and they have delayed getting medical care for their injuries, then they will face a response that argues they have “failed to mitigate their damages” if not an outright charge that they are filing a phony or exaggerated claim and aren’t really hurt at all.

It is true that under Florida law, an injury victim has the legal duty to take reasonable steps to minimize the harm that has happened to them. This includes acting with due diligence in getting medical treatment.

So, what do you do if you didn’t rush to the doctor or the emergency room? Well, you must provide evidence to show the reasons and justifications for your delay and the reasons why the defendant is still liable for your injuries.

Case of Delay in Seeking Medical Care after Falling Down at Grocery Store

In the case of Ramey v. Winn Dixie Montgomery, Inc., 710 So.2d 191 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998), Tim Ramey was shopping at his local Winn Dixie supermarket when he slipped and fell on some butter on the floor of the store and was hurt. Ramey testified that the butter had “lumps in it” and it was in “chunks” as if it had partially melted, and the jury agreed with him that the butter had been there for a long enough time that the grocery store should have known of the danger and cleaned it up. So, Winn Dixie was held liable for the accident.

However, Winn Dixie had an argument, too. They argued that Tim Ramey delayed in seeking medical treatment, and that his damages should be either rejected outright or discounted.

There was no controversy over whether or not he was injured. Doctors testified that Tim Ramey was seriously hurt in the fall: he suffered permanent back injuries and would have continuing and perhaps increasing back pain in the future. He would need medical treatment for his back and help for his pain for the known future (permanently).

In fact, Ramey had both a general practitioner and a neurosurgeon testify, and both said that he suffered a herniated disc in the fall which was a permanent injury for which he would need intermittent treatment for back pain for the remainder of his life.

They also testified that the reason that Tim Ramey delayed in seeking medical help was because of “… his lack of medical insurance and his lack of funds to pay for the tests required for a definitive diagnosis.”

His lack of funds meant that he had to delay getting a prescribed MRI, for example. No evidence was presented that the delays in seeking medical care by Ramey contributed to his condition.

The court held that Ramey’s delay in getting medical care should not be a bar to damages being assessed against Winn Dixie for the harm that he incurred when he fell in their store.

Getting Immediate Medical Care After an Accident Is Best

Remember, the insurance adjuster and the insurance defense attorney are going to be ready to use any failure to get immediate medical care against you. It’s always best to seek emergency room care after an accident — the most important reason being that many accident victims may be more seriously hurt than they realize. Head injuries, nerve damage, spinal cord injuries, and more may not be readily apparent and immediately known after an accident.

If you wait weeks or months to get medical care, then you’ve got a big fight on your hands when you make your claim. And, you may suffer more serious long-term harm to your body because you waited to get help from a doctor.  We recommend that you also talk with an experienced injury lawyer (after you have seen a doctor) because he or she will tell you if you have a claim that is worth pursuing notwithstanding the fact that you waited to seek medical attention.  Procrastination isn’t fatal to a personal injury claim, but it is something to avoid. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, offer a free initial consultation to answer your questions.

What Should You Do Now?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in an accident, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.

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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.

However, please don’t call us until after you have seen a doctor!

 

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