For reasons that may be fairly straightforward, the importance of a client’s medical records and bills in a personal injury case cannot be overstated. In all but the rarest of situations, medical bills will make up the bulk of a plaintiff’s total damages.
A plaintiff’s medical records hold the key to the essence of the case, as understanding the medical records will illustrate what the plaintiff’s injuries are and, perhaps more importantly, what the plaintiff’s injuries may be in the future (known as the “permanency” factor in these matters).
Lawyers are not medical doctors, and reading and understanding medical records is an exceedingly difficult task and often requires an expert or the Plaintiff’s treating physician (or multiple physicians) to testify for the jury to understand and hear such evidence.
As anyone who has ever suffered an injury or illness that required a hospital stay can attest, doctors’ reports are often dense, highly technical documents that do not translate well to plain English. So the question arises, then, of just how an attorney, who likely does not fully comprehend the medical documents himself, translates these documents for a jury.
There are a number of ways to accomplish this task. Sometimes, the best way to present medical evidence to a jury is through the client himself. It should be mentioned at this point that the only way to introduce the actual medical records (doctor’s notes, x-rays, etc.) is through the doctor himself (more on this topic later). This is not a hard-and-fast rule, however, as a plaintiff will likely wish to call a doctor to testify for a complex, serious injury. Generally speaking, however, a plaintiff can testify to how he felt, what he saw, and how things have affected him, and following this logic, he can testify to the basics of his own condition; however, plaintiff’s are not allowed to give medical opinions since a plaintiff is not qualified to give medical opinions.
Stated otherwise, it doesn’t take a doctor to testify that the plaintiff broke their leg in a car accident — the inference to be drawn is clear, and the testimony can be based solely on personal knowledge. However, how a back injury turned into, or evolved into, a more serious back injury as a result of a car accident may be considered an opinion that only a qualified expert (a doctor) can present to the jury.
As to bills, a client can testify to the amount of any bill that has already been paid for. If unpaid, the rules of evidence will require a doctor or record keeper to come to Court and testify as to the making of the bill, its reasonableness and other technical aspects of the bill to essentially verify that the bill is proper under the facts and circumstances of each particular situation. Without such testimony for bills — whether paid or unpaid — the jury would not be allowed to consider a plaintiff’s bills in awarding any amount of money.
A skilled trial attorney will ensure that all of your medical bills and records are complete and turned over to the opposing attorneys long before trial and will ensure that a doctor or other form of testimony will be presented for the jury to hear the evidence and for the Court to accept the evidence. Without this critical evidence and proper presentation, your case could become worth very little, or even worthless.
You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you ensure that all of your medical records and bills “make it into your case.” Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters – large or small.