Medical Doctors, Chiropractors and your Personal Injury Claim

When you are involved in an accident that results in personal injuries caused by someone else (see Understanding Personal Injury Lawsuits), not only will you have to make decisions about the attorney you want to represent you, but you will most likely be confronted with decisions regarding proper medical care for your injuries. With many opportunities to seek care from alternative health professionals that may be less expensive or less intimidating than medical doctors, it is important to be aware of the consequences your choice can have on your ability to receive fair compensation for your injuries.

One type of alternative medical practice that has gained wide acceptance in our society is chiropractic. Chiropractors believe that interference with the body’s muscular, nervous and skeletal systems impairs the body’s ability to fight disease and disrupts the body’s normal functioning. They practice spinal manipulation and other techniques that are believed to help bring the body back to a state of homeostasis; that is, the body’s natural ability to fight disease is restored. To become a chiropractor (D.C.), there are different standards for each state. For most states, chiropractors must finish at least 2 years of undergraduate education in a science-related field and then complete courses at a four-year chiropractic school to receive their D.C. While many people have benefited greatly from the care of chiropractors, their reputation is not well established with insurance companies.

One of the reasons chiropractic care is not regarded the same as care from a medical doctor is chiropractors’ credentialing and training is not as rigorous as a medical doctor’s. To become a medical doctor (M.D.), a person must complete a four-year bachelors degree with a preferable emphasis on basic science. After completing a BA or BS program, people interested in becoming a doctor must attend a four-year medical school. At the completion of medical school, an M.D. is awarded but graduates are not eligible to practice medicine on their own until they complete a residency program. Residency programs generally range from three to seven years and are programs designed to give M.D.’s professional experience under the supervision of experienced M.D.’s. Once an M.D. completes his or her residency, he or she may opt for a fellowship of an additional one to three years of training to become highly specialized in a specific field of medicine.

Also, since chiropractors do not prescribe medication, the seriousness of your injury may be called into question if you choose to see a chiropractor over a medical doctor. While medication may not be the best solution to every health concern, insurance companies often place a value on your injuries based on the amount of pain you experienced as a result of your injuries. Empirical evidence is often necessary to substantiate personal injury claims and justify the amount of money you are seeking for compensation of pain and suffering. Medication is often evidence of the pain you claim to experience as a result of your personal injury. Expenses for a medical doctor’s diagnosis and treatment tend to be regarded more seriously than those of a chiropractor. A personal injury attorney should be able to advise you on seeking care that will accurately reflect the pain and devastation of your injury.

This is not a commentary on what type of doctor or healthcare is better for your health needs; rather, it is an attempt to inform you of the realities of personal injury claims and how different philosophies of medical practice are viewed by insurance companies. What type of doctor you choose to treat your injuries may ultimately affect the amount of money you may be entitled to recover for your personal injuries. If you believe that a chiropractor’s care is in your best interest, it is a good idea to see a medical doctor first and ask for a referral. Maintain contact with your primary physician throughout your chiropractic care and have him or her document your progress toward recovery. A medical doctor may also have treatments that will help you recover in addition to chiropractic care.

When you experience a personal injury as the result of an accident that is not your fault or an accident that you are partially at fault for (see Understanding Comparative (Fault) Negligence Liability), keep in mind that medical doctors and chiropractors are viewed differently by insurance companies. If you want to recover the maximum amount of money you are entitled to for your personal injury, it may be in your best interest to seek primary health care from a medical doctor. As always, a personal injury attorney should be able to advise you on the best course of action to take for your claim.

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