Hergott: Magic pill defense plays on our optimism

I do what I can to ensure that my clients do anything and everything possible to get better.

Lawyer Paul Hergott's latest column.

Lawyer Paul Hergott's latest column.

A family doctor recently shared her frustration with me about one of my clients.

I had arranged the discussion. I asked if there was anything more my client could do to recover from her crash injuries.

It is one of my roles as a personal injury lawyer. I do what I can to ensure that my clients do anything and everything possible to get better.

By doing so, I avoid the dreaded “magic pill defence”.

It’s an effective defence that plays on our natural human optimism.

Imagine it’s four years after a crash. You have undergone full courses of physiotherapy and chiropractic care. Even with all your efforts, your condition has remained unchanged since about a year after the crash.

ICBC hires a medical specialist to examine you. The specialist recommends something, anything. Perhaps it’s a particular type of therapy that you haven’t tried, like IMS, trigger point injections, or prolotherapy.  Maybe it’s an active rehabilitation program supervised by a kinesiologist.

The specialist might, ironically, blame your lack of progress on the depression that has developed as a result of your chronic pain, and recommend anti-depressant medication and psychological counselling.

It might be extremely unlikely that any of these recommendations will actually lead to a significant improvement in your condition, especially so long after the crash.

Natural human optimism, though, can lead to the hope that they truly are “magic pills”.

That hopeful optimism will result in a reduction of compensation for your losses that are likely to continue into the future.

The value of an ICBC claim is the value of the loss. The greater the hope a magic pill will work, the lower your compensation.

How do you protect against an unfair reduction in compensation based on the faint hope placed on a magic pill?  Take the magic pill.

By proactively ensuring that my clients seek out and follow through with whatever care recommendations might be offered, I avoid coming up against magic pills.

This is where my job as a personal injury lawyer directly aligns with the family doctor’s job as a medical care giver. We both want to get our client / patient as recovered as possible as quickly as possible.

So why was this family doctor frustrated?

My client had relied on a chiropractor for her primary care, and had gone to her family doctor only as she needed to for referrals.

The family doctor had done her best to manage her patient’s care, but the patient made it very difficult. It is impossible to manage care if your patient doesn’t regularly return to report on progress and seek updated care recommendations.

Of course she was frustrated. She was being asked to do the impossible.

I do my best to coach my clients about avoiding this frustration. Your doctor is not simply a referral source.  She is one of your best hopes for maximizing your recovery.

There is nothing wrong with relying on your chiropractor to manage your care, but don’t lose out on the benefit of your family doctor’s expertise.

Independently consult with your family doctor, ask for and follow through with her care recommendations and keep her updated on your progress.

What if her recommendations conflict with those of your chiropractor or any other medical practitioner?  We’re all on the same team.  A quick telephone call between them should resolve any conflicts.

By the way, if you come up to a “magic pill”, embrace the optimism when you take it. The more optimistic you are that care will help you, the more likely it will.

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