Talk to him in advance, pay him whatever he asks, and don’t push him too far.
As I’ve said before, a lot of doctors are sensitive. About a lot of things.
They have worked like crazy to get where they are. They have very high standards. They care intensely about doing things right, and about making their patients better.
Most of them get sued sooner or later, often over an action or inaction that is a matter of daily routine. They don’t think they should be sued, and a lot of them blame the lawyers for the lawsuit.
They treat people who are sick in the first place; there’s not a lot they can do for some of their patients, and when something goes wrong it’s not always preventable.
The bottom line is, they’re suspicious of lawyers, and of people who like to sue. That’s two strikes, unless they trust both the lawyer and the patient.
On the other hand, doctors make it their business to care for their patients. They want to stand up for their patients when the injury is clearly caused by the other driver.
But they don’t always have a lot of time to get ready to testify. And they are wary of being used; people (insurance adjusters, the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, victims’ lawyers) ask them for opinions all the time without payment.
So here is my SOP. First, I get the medical records and read them. Hopefully, all of them.
If there is any question on which I think a doctor’s testimony will be helpful – causation, prior history, extent or permanence of injury, I call the doctor’s office and ask for an appointment for me to meet with the doctor as soon as I think my client is finished treating.
I might send a letter first, saying what I need to ask the doctor about. I ask for one half hour, and offer to pay him for his time – usually $500 or more.
I go out and ask the doctor whatever questions I need him to answer. If I like the answers, I tell him I need a letter, and to charge me for the letter. I write a letter to the doctor, formally asking for his opinions.
That’s another $300 to $500, but it is what the doctor would charge for his time if he were in surgery, and if I think he’ll write a letter I want, it’s worth it.
When I get the letter stating the doctor’s opinions, I send it to the other side. Usually, that resolves the issue – the letter convinces the insurance company that there is enough to take the case to trial, and unless the doctor is saying something that the jury won’t accept, the insurance company will make a reasonable settlement offer.
If I don’t like the doctor’s answers to my questions in our meeting, I don’t push him. Even if I can talk him into writing a letter saying something I want, there is a real good chance the insurance company will take his opinions to a doctor they have hired, and the insurance doctor will make my client’s doctor look stupid. That will hurt both the doctor and my client.
If I don’t like the doctor’s answers to my questions, AND I don’t think they make sense, I may talk to my client about getting an evaluation by an independent doctor who has not treated him. But this is expensive – it doesn’t make sense financially for a lot of cases – and it’s risky, if the other side finds out about it and I still can’t get a good opinion.
And finally, when I get the doctor’s bill, I either pay it or tell him when I will pay it. But paying it is much better. And I always make sure the doctor gets paid before the case is over.
A couple years ago I met with a very respected cardiologist. He had treated my client, and I wanted to know whether he believed the accident had caused my client’s heart attack while he was in the hosptital five days later. (He did.)
We met for an hour, and about a month and one half later I received both his letter – two pages – and a bill for $2,500.00. (He had spent four hours writing the letter.) I did not question either his time or its value, and sent him a check.
It was worth it.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Talking to doctors is a big part of what I do. If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Personal Injury Attorney about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.