When Should I refer a Personal Injury Lawyer to my Patients?
As I travel around and talk with chiropractors across the state, there is one question that almost always comes up: How soon should I refer my personal injury patients to a lawyer? The answer is simple: Right now.
Many good physicians are not sure, or just plain mistaken about what the right time is for a referral to a personal injury lawyer. Well-trained and experienced docs who have personal injury patients know that Utah law requires a claimant (your patient) to reach “Personal Injury Protection threshold” or $3,000 before they have a third-party bodily injury claim. Many doctors think they need to wait until that time to make the referral. On our side of the fence, many personal injury lawyers are not interested in talking to potential clients unless they have reached, or are certain to reach their Personal Injury Protection threshold. I’m here to tell you that thinking is wrong, and you are hurting your patient and yourself by waiting.
Here are three simple reasons (there are many more than three, but for the sake of time and space, let’s just keep it simple) why you should not wait to get a personal injury lawyer:
1. Personal Injury Lawyers help avoid gaps in treatment.
Well trained and experienced personal injury physicians know that treatment gaps can be deadly to a claimant’s case and their healing. For chiropractic care to be successful, it requires a commitment on the patient’s part. Additionally, a case is ultimately worth what a jury says it is worth. Jurors have a hard time believing a person is hurt if they don’t go to the doctor and get treatment. While reasonable explanations for gaps can be sold to a jury, we are only good for a few dozen miracles each month. Having a personal injury lawyer involved early will give the doctor’s office another voice of support to get their patients in for treatment without missing appointments. We help patients better understand the process, and rest assured that the Personal Injury Protection PIP carrier will be paying the bills they are obligated to pay.
2. Personal Injury Lawyers get the insurance companies moving.
There are always delays when insurance is involved. We have thousands of horror stories about adjusters behaving badly. Just last week I was in a good Doctor of Chiropractic office’s when a Personal Injury Protection adjuster called and made all kinds of ridiculous threats, all in an effort to keep the claim from being made. Lawyers know the right buttons to push to get an adjuster on track and paying bills. Also, we help your patients fill out the Personal Injury Protection application form correctly to ensure the doctor gets paid quickly.
On top of all of that, very few Personal Injury Protection adjusters inform claimants of all the various benefits that are available such as compensation for household services and lost wages. How many patients have you had that aggravate/reinjure because they were doing some household chores, or they went back to work too soon? A good Personal Injury lawyer will help your patients get ALL of the benefits they need to assist in their healing.
Once Personal Injury Protection is exhausted, the doctors usually face the choice of wrapping up care early, or keep treating and hope to get something out of the third party claim. Without a personal injury lawyer involved, the third party insurance carrier has little motivation to resolve the claim in a timely or reasonable manner. Injured people rarely know what their claim is worth and don’t know where to turn for help. However, having a personal injury lawyer involved will get the case settled faster. Having a personal injury lawyer who knows personal injury well will get the doctor full value for their services faster.
Personal Injury cases require a lot of work and documentation. Experienced and well trained Personal Injury lawyers know what documentation the adjuster will need. Personal Injury attorneys will be able to spot and deal with problems in the case early on, and will also know when to file suit. They will get the process started sooner and work faster and more effectively. While negotiating has great merits, in this economy, insurers are constantly worried about their bottom line. Sometimes valuable time is wasted sitting at the negotiating table without the insurance company burning money in litigation costs. Litigation certainly isn’t our only tool, but it is one we aren’t afraid to use when necessary. The earlier the attorney is involved, the sooner this whole process gets started.
3. You get a chance to choose which personal injury lawyer you work with when you refer early.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it really is. Many times, if the doctor isn’t making the referral, the patient will hire someone who either doesn’t know personal injury well or who does not give each case the time and attention it deserves. Some Personal Injury firms ask the Doctor of Chiropractic, as a standard operating procedure, to trim their bill every time. Worse yet, the patient may hire an attorney who does not understand Personal Injury or who is not pro-chiropractic. There are a lot of attorneys who do Personal Injury work “on the side.” Trust me; you don’t want one of them.
Personal Injury is complicated enough that the attorney needs to know what he or she is doing.
When you make the referral, you can send your patient to someone you know and trust. At Larson Law Firm, we do personal injury work exclusively. We have the original legal friend to Utah chiropractic in Bryan Larson. We know and understand chiropractic, and we use it! We have helped develop some of the personal injury laws in this state, and we have helped the chiropractors get a seat at the table against some fierce opposition. Perhaps best of all, we will only ask you to trim your bill on the rarest of occasions. If we do, there is a serious problem with the case, and we will always take an equal trim in our fees.
For the above reasons and for countless others, you need to refer your personal injury patients to an attorney at the beginning. Do it even if you don’t think they will reach threshold. If we sign them and they don’t reach threshold, it’s no big deal. We send them on their way healthy and happy, and we won’t charge them for our time. However, you don’t want to gamble on the chance that everything will work out if you don’t make the referral, or wait until after threshold is reached. You have nothing to lose. Protect the value of your treatment and care by making the referral today!