Personal-injury (PI) cases are neither easy nor are they usually resolved quickly. Winning takes patience, teamwork and a great deal of trust. Here are a few easy ways to build that trust right at the beginning of your relationship with a PI attorney:
- Develop Mutual Respect: Most PI lawyers have never seen a chiropractor for care. That's strange because they deal with a lot of musculoskeletal injuries. Many attorneys do not appreciate the years of training or the chiropractic philosophy of drugless health care. But just because a lawyer has not been treated by a DC is not a reason to avoid working with them. In your initial discussion, gauge their interest and knowledge of chiropractic. Explain how you work with patients and the care you provide. At the same time, learn about their training. Ask them about their trial experience. By learning more about each other's background, mutual respect can grow. Without mutual respect, little else matters.
- Consider a Long-Term Relationship: When beginning to work with a PI lawyer, consider that you are looking at a minimum 10-year relationship. The Japanese business model calls for long-term relations to weather calm or stormy economic times. Long-term relationships create good will, comfort and predictability.
- Open the Lines of Communication: Most often, lawyers do not talk with the DC about their PI case. This is a serious error. Both the busy DC and the attorney need to reach out to each other early and regularly in each case to see if they have the same vision of the case and of the patient's ultimate outcome.
- Watch Each Other's Back: Both the lawyer and the doctor have a duty to watch out for each other. In cases when the patient has not been released from care but is upset with how slow the attorney is moving on their case, the doctor needs to explain the personal-injury process to the patient. If the chiropractor hears that the attorney is not returning the patient's calls, a quick call warning them that their client is frustrated is a smart idea. Good attorneys will be grateful and appreciative for your efforts.
- Look Out for the Patient: Supporting the patient is not just about providing them with top-quality legal and chiropractic care. The patient needs to be able to appreciate the complicated personal-injury claim system. Patients need to be told that insurance companies feverishly guard their own money. They hire their own doctors and attorneys to defeat the patient's claim. This is an adversarial system, simply put. The patient will need to be reminded that management of their case is a team effort.
Shawn Steel created a new field of law by defending chiropractors and acupuncturists, and representing their patients in personal-injury matters. He has law offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif.; has taught ethics and jurisprudence classes at Cleveland Chiropractic College since 1991; and is a prolific lecturer and writer with more than 40 articles and book chapters to his credit.