Some personal injury attorneys foolishly advertise that any victim of a car accident should consult with them so they can send the injured motorist to the attorney’s doctors. Our law firm does not have “our” doctors. We do not practice law in that manner. The following is one reason why.
A case was tried in Placer County this year where the defense argued the case was manufactured by the plaintiff’s attorney. A woman, age 37, who was 34 weeks pregnant, was rear-ended. The defendant admitted liability in the trial but argued the woman was not hurt badly.
The woman went by ambulance from the scene of the accident to the hospital where she underwent fetal monitoring for 3½ days. Upon release from the hospital, she sought and retained a personal injury attorney. The attorney referred the woman to a “med-legal” chiropractor, who referred her to other physicians. The doctors treated the woman on liens, which is a contract with the personal injury attorney wherein he promises to pay the doctor from the proceeds of the lawsuit. The woman ran up $129,000 in medical bills with the doctors who all had signed liens with the personal injury attorney. The doctors testified the woman needed a future spinal surgery. A MRI scan was provided by a company owned by the personal injury attorney.
The woman was eligible for Medi-Cal, but received all her treatment on liens. A fact in our world today is that many doctors will not provide medical services for the Medi-Cal reimbursement rates and thus Medi-Cal patients have trouble getting adequate medical care. Treating on a lien is often the only way an injured motorist can get adequate medical treatment. But medical treatment should not be by doctors referred by the attorney.
After hearing all the evidence, the jury rendered a verdict that was less than the costs of paying for the trial. While doctors may provide medical care on a lien, their testimony must be paid for by the attorney. Any recovery goes first to pay trial costs. This poor woman has a verdict that may pay her attorney’s costs, but she still owes the $129,000 for medical care.
Insurance companies hire “independent medical examiners” (who are hardly independent) to testify that injured victims of accidents are not hurt or were hurt at some time other than the accident. Juries do not seem to mind such manufactured perjury. But if a plaintiff or her attorney bring in a doctor who has a contract to be paid from the proceeds of the lawsuit, juries slam shut the doors of the halls of justice.