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Family Doctor, Chiropractor or Orthopedist – Who Do You Choose?

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Our clients often ask us who should I go see after an automobile wreck with a personal injury.

The choice of what kind of doctor to go see is up to the individual. There is no right answer. Generally, I, as an attorney, try to stay out of the decision. However, I do give information to folks who have had a personal injury so they can make a more informed choice for themselves.

Obviously, if you have an emergency, you need to be seen in the emergency room. Where you go after that for your treatment depends on what is wrong with you, as well as convenience and price. If you have health insurance, you should generally use it. In Virginia, often your health insurance company will pay what it is supposed to and will not be required to be paid back at the end of the case. Even if the health insurance has to be paid back at the end of the case, you will still be finacially better off by using it. First, the insurance company will pay the bills in the short run so that no one will be hounding you for payment. Also, even if the insurance company has to be paid back for what they paid out on your injury, they will typically not have to be paid back dollar for dollar. Rather, they will only have to be paid back 75% of what they paid. This does not relieve the defendant or at fault driver from responsibility for the full original amount of the bill, as if health insurance had not paid. If your health insurance is an HMO, you may be required to see your family doctor or PCP first before they will cover specialists.

If you have a back or neck problem from the car wreck, your two main choices for treatment will be a chiropractor or an orthopedic doctor as specialists. A chiropractor is a doctor specially trained to deal with the spine, including the neck and back. Chiropractors typically do adjustments and other conservative therapies to increase your mobility and get you to heal. They do not prescribe medications. If you need painkillers, you will need to have a medical doctor, such as a family doctor or orthopedist, prescribe those. The main advantage of a chiropractor is that they will see you quickly. Typically, you can call a chiropractor and get into their office in the next day. Chiropractors will often also treat you on credit if you have an attorney representing you in your injury case. Thus, they will not make you pay for the services rendered immediately, but will wait until the case has resolved. Although there are some orthopedic doctors who will do this, they are less common.

The alternative for back and neck problems is an orthopedist or a neurosurgeon. These doctors specialize in providing surgical remedies for serious back and neck problems. Orthopedists normally work in conjunction with physical therapists. Physical therapists do some of the same types of work on mobility that chiropractors use. Only have conservative measures have failed will an orthopedist recommend surgery. Typically, surgery is only indicated where there is some kind of nerve involvement causing numbness, pain or tingling to radiate into your legs or arms from the spine. If you start off with a chiropractor, they can always recommend you to an orthopedist, to the extent they are not able to heal you sufficiently or they believe that you have a surgical situation.

As your personal lawyer, I generally try not to interfere with the patient/doctor relationship. If you have a medical provider that you like and trust, I will always encourage you to stick with them. However, it is sometimes helpful to have a person who deals with this type of health care provider often confirming that the course of treatment makes sense. Helping you figure out exactly what kind of treatment you may need is one of the reasons to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a car wreck.