I received a phone call the other day from a guy who was handling his own accident case. He said the insurance company only offered him a few thousand dollars even though his doctor recommended surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. We spoke for a few minutes and he mentioned that the insurance adjuster wasn't going to pay for the carpal tunnel surgery because she didn't believe it was related to the accident.
I asked the guy when he started to fell symptoms in his wrist and hand. He told me that it started a couple of weeks after the accident. The numbness would come and go and then after a few months it was bothering him every day. I asked the guy to send me his medical records and I would take a look at them and tell him what I think.
The ER record makes no mention of trauma to the wrist or wrist pain
The family doctor's initial note a couple of weeks after the accident makes no mention of wrist pain or numbness in the hand
The chiropractic notes mention numbness in the right thumb about six weeks after the accident.
The records do not mention wrist pain or hand numbness for another six weeks after that
The Problem with Proof
I called the guy back after reviewing the records and I explained what the records documented. I asked again about this symptoms and he told me that he didn't think much about the problem initially so he may not have told his doctors. I told him this is the problem.
A person making a personal injury claim has the burden of showing that the accident was a substantial factor in the injury. One of the ways of showing this legal element of causation is documenting the complaints. Under these circumstances no doctor is going to be able to give an opinion that the accident was the cause of the carpal tunnel syndrome because the records do not support that conclusion.
What is the Fix?
If you are in an accident, don't censure your complaints. You are not the doctor. Your job is to report all your problems to the doctor and the doctor will sort them out. Many people try to minimize their complaints or don't want to come off as a baby or whiner. Accurately reporting your symptoms is not whining. I can't tell you how many times I have seen people get short changed because they made the honest mistake of not accurately reporting their complaints to their doctors.
This is one of the benefits of hiring a lawyer immediately after a crash. For instance, in my consultation, I take a detailed medical history from my client and I always tell the client that they have to accurately report all their symptoms, and any change in symptoms to their doctors. And that means all of their doctors. If a chiropractor is your main treating doctor after an accident, when you go to your family doctor or foot doctor or gynecologist, give them a complete history.