The principal problem posed by gaps in your medical treatment is that by waiting too long to receive treatment or in between treatments, you are inhibiting your body’s ability to recovery from injury. The law imposes a duty upon a personal injury claimant to do everything he or she can do to minimize damages, which includes doing whatever possible to heal as quickly and effectively as possible. Gaps in treatment can also raise the issue of whether there has been another accident or incident that caused your injuries. Gaps in treatment may have the unintended consequence of giving the appearance that doctor visits, physical therapy, or other medical care is not genuine.
Under the law of mitigation of damages, it is the duty of a personal injury claimant to have done everything reasonable to minimize his or her damages. One cannot refuse to seek treatment, or delay seeking treatment, and then bring a claim requesting the full amount of compensation possible for one’s condition. For example, if as a result of a car accident you suffer a neck strain, commonly referred to as “whiplash,” you cannot just sit at home for two years without seeking medical care and then request pain and suffering compensation for the last two years. You have a duty to mitigate your damages, which would include going to a doctor and doing physical therapy if prescribed by your physician. Receiving such treatment would likely help you heal within a time frame of much less than two years, for example in six months, thereby minimizing your compensation requested in your personal injury claim to only six months of pain and suffering. Of course, your personal injury attorney would also be entitled to recoup all of your reasonable medical expenses for you.
Another issue created by gaps in treatment is that they may give rise to the issue of whether your injuries stem from a different accident of incident that was caused by a party other than the one against whom your personal injury lawyer is bringing your claim. For example, if you are injured and do not seek treatment for five months, the question will certainly be raised by the opposing attorney, and a jury may even find at the time of trial in your case, that you could have suffered your injuries from a different accident or incident occurring between the time of the subject incident and the time you first sought treatment.
The other issue created by gaps in treatment is that they may give the appearance, accurately or not, that your claim for damages is lacking in genuineness. For example, if you begin a physical therapy regimen lasting two months, then stop completely, and then six months later resume the same physical therapy, that may have the unintended effect of making it seem as though you are manufacturing your injury for the purpose of seeking a greater amount of compensation.
More important, gaps in treatment will delay the healing process for you. After all, your health is the most important thing and your doctors, your attorneys, and you yourself all want you to fully recover from your injuries. The more proactive and disciplined you are with your medical care, the faster you will heal and better you will recovery. So being diligent about your treatment both help you get better faster and can affect the amount of pain and suffering damages that you may be entitled to receive in your personal injury case.