The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that more than 31 million people are injured in the United States each year. Those injuries are often caused by someone else. When you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, it can seem unfair that you must expend the time and effort to recover compensation for losses that the responsible person caused. However, the burden of proof is initially on the injured party. In fact, the injured party must prove a whole host of things in order to recover from someone who caused them harm. As unfair as this may seem, it is how our court system operates.
Proving You Were Harmed with Medical Evidence
If you were harmed by someone else, you must prove that they are responsible by showing the following:
- The defendant owed you some kind of duty
- That duty was breached
- That breach led to harm
- The harm resulted in actual injuries for which damages can be paid
The law provides for the first element of duty. For example, laws provide that all drivers must obey traffic laws, which include a duty to other drivers to drive carefully. If someone negligently drives across the center line and causes you to have an accident, that person has breached a legal duty dictated by law. You can easily show that the injuries you received were a result of that breach of duty. However, it can be more difficult to show that you had actual damages and losses.
In order to show that you were injured, you must provide medical evidence that you required treatment. Medical documentation from a reliable source removes questions about your own subjective opinions. A medical doctor will provide verifiable tests and objective proof that you were injured as a result of the incident.
The following types of medical evidence may show that you were injured as a result of a breach of duty:
- Emergency room records
- Treating physician notes and/or narrative reports
- X-rays, CAT scans, and other images
- Physical therapy notes
- Chiropractic records
- Surgical notes
Proving Damages with Medical Evidence
There are two types of damages that you can receive in a personal injury claim – economic and noneconomic. Both of those types are greatly affected by medical evidence.
Economic damages are precise monetary losses, such as medical bills due to your injuries. They can easily be proven with documents. When requesting compensation for economic damages, you can specify an exact monetary amount that is backed up by medical evidence in the form of medical bills.
Noneconomic damages are less exact. They include losses such as pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Although these can result in economic damages, such as the inability to work or need for mental health treatment, noneconomic damages are more difficult to prove. Medical evidence is vital in proving that you have noneconomic damages. Doctor’s notes documenting your pain on a scale over time can show that you have suffered greatly and deserve compensation.
Continuous Medical Treatment is Important
Medical evidence from immediately after an incident that causes you harm is important to show that the harm resulted in compensable injuries; however, records from before and after the incident are also important. During an investigation, an insurance company or other responsible party will request medical records from your past, present, and future. They want to review any prior injuries, current harm, and see the progress of your treatment.
Medical notes from a treating physician from prior to the incident are important to show that you did not have any preexisting conditions that may be causing your current injuries. However, even if you had a back condition that was further injured by the negligence or recklessness of someone else, the additional harm done may be compensable. It is important to provide documentation of your condition prior to the injuries incurred most recently.
Medical treatment received as a result of the harmful incident offer objective medical documentation that you were injured and to what extent you were harmed. Insurance companies and other responsible parties will not simply take your word for the harm you’ve incurred. They will want medical documentation that you were injured and that the harm you received was caused by the incident in question.
You should also continue to seek medical treatment after your initial evaluation post-incident. You must show the progress or lack thereof in order to prove damages. You may need to try many different kinds of treatment, and the success or failure of those treatment methods should also be documented. It is important to keep going to the doctor and fully participate in any recommended treatment to show that you are trying to repair the harm that was caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness.
Medical evidence is important in a personal injury claim because it proves that you were harmed, the extent of your injuries, how your injuries affect your daily life, and your prognosis. Our seasoned personal injury attorney with Greene & Lloyd, PLLC is available to discuss in further details what medical evidence you need to prove your claim.