Your family physician can be a valuable ally in securing compensation for personal injury due to the actions or negligence of others, says Ontario personal injury lawyer Joshua Goldberg.
“A family doctor can play a significant role in proving your personal injury claim,” says Goldberg, principal of Joshua Goldberg Law. “Their expertise and knowledge about your physical status is vital, so you need to have them on your side.”
He says there are many legal and personal benefits to having a family doctor involved in your case.
“A family MD will investigate your symptoms and will be able to track your progress as you recover,” Goldberg tells LegalMattersCanada.ca. “You should consult with them as soon as you can after your injury. That will allow them to assess your condition and recommend a course of treatment.”
Medical records are important
Your personal physician will have medical records documenting your physical status in previous years, he explains.
“If they observe your ability to lead a full life has been compromised by a recent injury, that is valuable information to present in a personal injury claim,” says Goldberg. “A family doctor can provide a complete picture of your health, not just information based on your post-accident injuries.”
As the usual first point of contact in our healthcare system, family doctors can point you in the right direction when it comes to treatment and rehabilitation programs, he says.
“They can make referrals so you can receive X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI,” Goldberg says. “These tests may be critical to your recovery, and they can be used to prove an injury claim.”
Follow your doctor’s orders
He says you should always seek medical advice after an injury. “If you are badly injured, go to an emergency room,” he says.
“If the injury does not require immediate care, you can call your family doctor and request the first available appointment.“Once you are examined and receive a treatment plan, be sure to follow it,” he adds. “Keep your doctor apprised on how you are progressing and what therapy is working.”
From a legal perspective, Goldberg says people have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to get better. Failing to do so is viewed negatively by the courts, he says.
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“Tell your doctor how your injuries are impacting your daily activities and ability to work,” Goldberg says.
He also says not to mislead a physician about your injuries.
“Honesty is the best policy,” Goldberg says. “Your doctor will likely know if you are malingering or exaggerating the extent of your injuries. If they have suspicions, your legal case could be compromised.”
Many people do not have a family MD
For some, consulting a family doctor is not always possible, he notes. According to the Ontario College of Family Physicians, one in five Ontarians could be without a family doctor by 2025.
“Ontario’s healthcare system is in crisis, and that includes family doctors,” states a college news release. “The family doctor shortage will be felt by all, regardless of where we live in Ontario. In some cases, entire families could be without one. We must act now.”
It added that as of March 2020, “nearly 1.8 million Ontarians were without a regular family doctor. Additionally, 1.7 million Ontarians have a family doctor who is over 65 and therefore poised to retire.”
The Ontario government offers guidance on locating a family physician on its Find a Doctor or Nurse Practitioner web page. The public can also visit the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s Doctor Search service.
People without a family doctor can go to a walk-in clinic to receive treatment, says Goldberg. Although the clinic will not have your past medical records, physicians there can evaluate your injuries and track your progress at return visits. This can be a crucial step in securing compensation for personal injuries.
“Everyone should have a family physician to ensure they stay healthy,” he says. “And in the event of a personal injury, their records will act as an important source of evidence during the settlement or trial process.”