What Are Future Medical Expenses In A Personal Injury Case?
Future medical expenses are costs that can be claimed, but must be proved, by the plaintiff for reasonable necessary medical care that will be needed in the future. Future medical expenses are often claimed at trial through the use of expert medical testimony. However, many cases are resolved without trials. Thus, for purposes of settlement, attorneys often rely upon the treating physician. If the treating physician has indicated that the client may need future chiropractic treatments or perhaps epidural injections, we would work with the treating doctor to provide the necessary report that can be submitted to the at fault party or their insurance company. The doctor’s report would document the cost of all future medical treatments for our client. In catastrophic injury cases, the use of a life care planner is often needed. This is someone who can calculate future treatment needs into dollars.
For example, if someone has been paralyzed as a result of an injury, they are going to need a lot of care in the future. The type of care required would need to be thoroughly documented by someone who is a life care planner. A life care planner can lay out the treatments that would be needed for the remainder of the individual’s lifetime, as well as the projected reasonable costs. Many times, clients go to doctors that were referred by their typical primary provider. Most of these doctors are not aware of the necessity of establishing future medical care. Often, treating physicians who are not well-versed in medical legal areas use words in their reports that can cause future medical expenses to be seen as speculative as opposed to a need that is reasonably certain to continue or occur in the future.
The benefit of having an attorney’s help in this aspect of the injured party’s damages is that we are aware of what needs to be proven. We can speak with the doctor and get an understanding from them as to whether they believe it is reasonably certain that particular treatments will be needed in the future. Sometimes, the doctor is simply casual in the way that they speak, but their intention may mean that the person will need a treatment or surgery 10 years from now. Therefore, it’s important to work with a doctor and gain an understanding of what will be necessary to establish in order to secure those damages for the client. In California, defendants have a right to mitigate damages. If they show that the injured party failed to obtain prompt medical treatment, that can work to the detriment of the plaintiff’s recovery, especially in regard to future medical expenses or non-economic intangible losses. As such, following the doctor’s recommended treatment plan is paramount.
We can’t stress enough to our clients the importance of never missing appointments with their health care providers. They should do everything that their doctor prescribes. Otherwise, those things will be pointed out by the defense, and juries don’t like that. A jury could come to the conclusion that the plaintiff is not being compliant with their obligations under the law to try their best to get better.
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