Many people who suffer sudden-impact soft tissue injuries -- the kind that are common in car accidents and slip and fall incidents -- consider chiropractic treatment for these injuries, either in concert with or to the exclusion of treatment from medical doctors, physical therapists, and other health care professionals. If you're considering chiropractic care, it's crucial to understand how your decision (and your chosen course of health care treatment overall) can impact your personal injury claim.
Different Care Options (and Different Opinions)
Ask five people what type(s) of treatment you should seek after any kind of accident, and you are likely to get five different answers, because there is no "right" answer when it comes to a course of health care treatment, and most folks will have a preference based on their own experience.
When it comes to chiropractors, people generally have strong feelings one way or the other; some believe chiropractors are miracle workers and others believe they are not "real doctors." If you have never been to a chiropractor before, chances are that you will first seek more traditional treatment from medical doctors and physical therapists before pursuing chiropractic care.
Recovering the Costs of Chiropractic Care
When you have a back or neck injury after an accident, your first priority is to get well as soon as possible, because these types of injuries can significantly affect your day-to-day activities. But that's likely not your only concern. You may also wonder whether your chosen form of treatment will be covered by your insurance, and/or whether chiropractic care is considered a legitimate form of personal injury damages in the context of a civil lawsuit (litigation).
Those who ultimately choose chiropractic care will want to give some consideration to the effect their choice may have on their ability to pay for treatment, both in the context of insurance coverage and potential litigation against the party responsible for the underlying accident.
Whether you are covered by an automobile insurance policy or a general health insurance policy, your claims for chiropractic care may be limited by policy provisions that limit the number of approved visits.
If this is the case, you will be liable for all charges related to visits that exceed the limit stated in the policy. Another consideration is that many chiropractors prefer to avoid insurance reimbursement because 1) they are not allowed to charge their full rate per treatment and 2) they do not want the burden of all the necessary paperwork. Rather than make insurance claims, these chiropractors will ask you to agree to give them a lien on your personal injury claim so that they will be guaranteed payment out of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment you receive. While this may sound like a good deal at first, you must give serious thought to this arrangement at the outset because there will be no cap on the lien amount, and these charges could end up taking the bulk of any recovery you ultimately receive.
Expenses for chiropractic treatment are recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit as long as you can prove that they are reasonably necessary and appropriate for your particular injury. This has the potential to become problematic if there are members of the jury who are biased against chiropractors. As noted above, there are people who question the legitimacy of chiropractic care as an alternative to more traditional medicine, and it may be difficult to persuade jurors of this ilk that your treatment is necessary and appropriate. In this regard, your chances of recovering expenses for chiropractic care in a lawsuit will be greater if you have first pursued more traditional medical treatments without positive results.
In sum, chiropractors provide valuable treatment to millions of people experiencing a wide range of ailments, but issues related to insurance coverage and potential juror bias merit making a fully-informed decision before embarking on a course of treatment for your accident-related injuries.