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Personal Injury Investigation – Interviewing Physicians

The importance of developing a sound technique in interviewing physicians cannot be overemphasized. To begin with, every investigator of Workmen’s Compensation claims should have a fundamental knowledge of certain medical principles. He should study the basic medical information in this book and perhaps in some medical books, and refer back to these texts whenever he encounters a difficult medical problem in connection with his work. He should also refer to the dictionary of medical terms, if necessary, a specialized medical dictionary, when he comes upon terms that he does not understand. Hiring a local attorney would be good for your case.

By doing this consistently, the investigator will accumulate a comprehension of medical problems that will enable him to competently scrutinize the medical features of a claim and properly prepare its investigation.

The claimant is naturally concerned about his physical condition. He does not yet know how ill he is; whether his condition is serious or not. He wants help. The claim features, possibly underlying his condition, have not yet formulated themselves. He will be generally truthful at such a time because a falsehood may well jeopardize his condition and prevent his getting proper care and attention.

The purpose of interviewing a doctor is usually to get answers to these elements of any claim – “what,” “when,” “where,” “how,” and “why.” The doctor can disclose; when he began to treat the claimant; what history he received when the claimant was first seen; what his medical findings were on the first examination; if X-rays were taken, what they revealed; the diagnosis; the treatment rendered; the degree of disability and when and if it changed its status, for example, from total disability to partial disability; when disability ended; and, the past medical history of the patient.

The physical examination chart in the hospital record is also important. It will disclose the presence of objective medical findings and the extent of such findings. It will also reveal, in many cases, pre-existing pathological entities which the claimant may not have reported in giving his history on admission.

The progress notes will disclose the course the case is taking. These notes are usually entered in the record by the attending physician or by the interne on the case. These progress notes will, many times, make some mention of the positive, objective findings in the case. The last progress note in the hospital record will generally reveal the condition of the claimant at the time he was discharged from the hospital. Working with personal injury is not an easy task. But it would be better to have a lawyer on your side to work things out for you.

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