Brennan Law Firm, P.C. – Specializing in FELA Law

Medical Witnesses

The doctors, therapists, and other healthcare providers you see as a part of your medical recovery will become expert witnesses in your case. What your doctors say about your medical condition and its cause is extremely important. It is very important for you to relate the exact circumstances and complaints surrounding your injury to every healthcare provider you see. What you tell your medical providers will become a part of your permanent medical record. Later, the doctors will use these records to give their expert opinions about your injury when they’re deposed as expert witnesses. Failing to give the doctor all of the pertinent information regarding your injury can dramatically weaken your claim.

Here are two examples:

INCORRECT

  • I was throwing a switch on the railroad and I felt pain in my back.
  • I twisted my knee when I was walking along the railroad track.

CORRECT

  • I was throwing a switch on the railroad and as I lifted the handle it caught and jerked my lower back, at which time I felt a terrible pain.
  • I was walking on very large ballast along the railroad track and a large piece of it rolled out from under my foot and caused me to twist my knee.

The doctor may not know what a switch is or how it operates, or you may have to tell them that ballast is the large rock that holds up the track. Tell your doctors about every physical complaint you may be experiencing, otherwise they may not be able to establish a clear plan of treatment.

Here is an example:

INCORRECT

  • Doctor the pain medicine is helping, I’m feeling better than I did at first.

In this example the doctor may get the impression that you’re recovery is going well. It is normal to feel better after receiving medication and treatment, but it is imperative to tell the doctors exactly how you feel. If the doctor gets the wrong impression about how well you’re doing he may delay testing and put less emphasis on further diagnosis. That’s fine if it’s a true description of your condition, but be honest about how you feel every time you see a doctor. Keep in mind that the doctor will write down your words and his impression of your recovery in your permanent office records. In our experience, once a doctor has written your words into your records, jurors will almost believe what is written, so make sure you are thorough and clear.

CORRECT

  • Doctor the pain medicine helps at times, but there is definitely something wrong with my knee. It hurts every morning, and whenever I sit too long it stiffens up. I have shooting pains going down my leg sometimes and I can’t do anything physical without a lot of pain. My back has also started hurting for some reason.

This example gives the doctor a clear understanding of your complaints. The doctor may now consider a different plan of treatment and a more detailed study of your problem. More aggressive treatment should eliminate timely delays of more definitive tests and/or treatment by specialists. The back complaint may be new and it is very important to tell the doctor about every problem, no matter how minor it may seem. This gets the problem recorded in the doctor’s notes in case it develops into something more serious.

USE CAUTION IN THE FOLLOWING SITUATIONS

Most, if not all, medical providers will have their depositions taken and will depend on their notes to answer many of the questions that are asked of them.

It is very important for you to see your doctor periodically to keep him or her updated on your progress and complaints. Like any other witness, get every doctor’s address and phone information for your records.

Remember, always give your accident history to every doctor or specialist you see. The doctors need to know how you got hurt and all of your complaints.

Make and keep copies of all medical reports, medical bills, prescriptions, and record all appointments in your daily diary.

If a railroad official asks you not to get prescription drugs, tell the doctor what they said and why, also ask the doctor to make it a part of his office notes.

If a railroad official accompanies you to the doctor’s office or hospital, ask the doctor to treat you confidentially in private. The doctor will always respect your confidentiality.

If the doctor meets with a company official after your treatment, which is only allowed with your permission, ask the doctor to make the conversation an official part of your record.