Why Your Medical Records Matter in Personal Injury Cases

The subject has come up too many times in the past couple weeks where clients are disputing what is documented in their medical records that were written by their own treating physicians. I will admit, prior to becoming an attorney in South Carolina, I would trust what the doctor told me in the private setting of the examination room. As Lee Corso says, "Not so fast my friend."

It does not matter if you are being assisted by Medshore EMS at the scene of a motor vehicle collision or talking to your long time AnMed Family Medicine physician, those medical providers are documenting everything you tell them. As a matter of fact, the Federal Government has mandated all records be made digitally so you can even read the physician's handwriting. Well that wasn't their main reason for doing it but it sure has helped in reading Dr. Wadee's records. 

You have the right to request your medical records and you should do that on a quarterly to annual basis depending upon your frequency in medical treatment. (No, the discharge or checkout paper you get does not count as a medical record that is important.) It will help you see what information is documented from your visit with medical providers and also help ensure that your medical concerns and complaints are actually being addressed. Let me provide a news flash when that may become relevant...IN A PERSONAL INJURYCASE! 

If you are involved in some kind of traumatic incident (workers' compensation claim, car wreck, dog bite, slip & fall, product liability claim, nursing home negligence, or medical malpractice case) and claim the injuries you sustained from that incident are all because of that traumatic incident, you have to prove it to be reimbursed by the evil insurance companies. Your back may be hurting but if just the week before you were complaining of back pains, the question becomes how much more, if any, is your back hurting from the traumatic incident. Don't come in telling me your life is changed forever for the worst because of this traumatic incident but have no medical documentation to prove that claim. 

As an attorney, I can not tell the evil insurance company that your doctor told you it was all because of the traumatic incident. Shockingly, the evil empire would not believe me or you. However, the evil tryanny sometimes believes what is in the medical records. Not all the time but let's not get caught up in the fact that the evil empire will have a 22 year old college, educated adjuster make medical diagnosis and decisions. We will save that subject for another article. 

Today, your take away is this:

  • You are legally entitled to a copy of your medical records, regardless if you owe a balance to the medical provider. Now there may be a copying charge or retrieval fee but you are still entitled to those printed and detailed records, along with your itemized bills. Click here to print off this page, if the gate keeper at your medical facility doesn't believe you.
  • Do you really know what your doctor has documented?   What do you think your doctor will depend on as the truth a year from their visit with you if asked by a lawyer? That exact conversation or their medical records?
  • What is documented in your medical records will help your recovery from a traumatic incident or help the evil empire against your recovery. So, if you are experience back pain, emotional trauma, sleepless nights, relationship troubles, and so forth, I better read it in the medical records or it is not happening!

 

 

***When I Googled "evil insurance companies" there was a link with a discussion of whether insurance companies were evil or stupid.  Although it was about health care, the liability insurance carriers are designed the same way, maximize return to their shareholders while minimizing the payout of claims (YOUR CLAIM). I thought this was a very interesting response:

Doug DingusEverybody pays, everybody covered
622 Views
Insurance companies have a basic conflict with us in that their goal is to maximize for the shareholders, and that happens best when they deliver the least health care access for the most dollars.

So, the answer is by design, but said design is an artifact of our health care policy, meaning they are neither stupid or evil.

We can remedy this with regulation, or public primary care insurance, or competition, depending on how said competition is structured

They Say Imitation... We See You Looking Carolina Law Group

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. As I watched the morning news at my home in Greenville, #yeahthatGreenville, I always like to compare my fellow lawyers' commercials against our own. Yet this time,  I thought I was actually watching our commercial and found myself doing double takes.  

The first commercial is one Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC put together back in September 2014, with the help of our advertising team Martin Holland Advertising. We were so proud of this commercial and got such a positive response from everyone in the community for raising the bar on lawyer advertising. We should have known, creativity is hard to beat. Best to just imitate it. 

The second commercial was the commercial I saw recently (January 2016), by Carolina Law Group. I know those guys. I like those guys. I am simply calling them out. If I was a rapper, I would rap about them in my next song. ( I just watched "Straight Outta of Compton"). Wait, maybe I am a rapper. 

***Best if Hummed with Boyz-N-The-Hood*****

"Lawyers-N-The-Hood"

Woke up quick at about nine
Just thought that I had to be in Greenville soon
I gotta get to court before the day begins
Before the Judge pulls up in his Benz
About to go and darn near went blind
Young Lawyers on a commercial throwin' up lawyer signs
Ran in the house and grabbed my phone
With my finger on record, Im going to call out these clones
Decided to use the Internet as my weapon
Just as I thought, the Carolina Law Group kept steppin'
Jumped in the Audi hit the juice on my ride
I wouldnt know what to do w/ front back and side to side
Then I let Sirius Radio play
Bumpin' Backspin playin NWA
It was "Gangsta Gangsta" at the top of the list
Then I hummed my own song, it went somethin' like this:
 
Cruisin' down the street in my fourteen'
Listening to my wife saying don’t be mean
Went to E. Washington Street to get the scoop
Carolina Law Group out there cold shootin' some hoops
When the Audi pulls up, who can it be?
Nihar & Monty saying, I wish that was me. 
I rolled down my window and showed them my phone
It's all about makin' that imitation/clone. 

 [Chorus]

 
Cuz the lawyers n tha hood are always hard
You come talkin' that trash we'll call the Bar
Knowin' nothin' in life but the laws & writs 
Don't imitate us Carolina Law Group because that aint legit. 

 

 

When Do I Hire an Attorney vs. Handling It Myself?

Through various avenues and referral sources, I often times get some interesting questions about "potential" cases. Lately, I have been looking over my shoulder for the hidden camera or wondering which one of my friends in playing a joke on me. I'm not sure it's a result of our litigous nature, the dying art of customer service, or people just dont have time to properly deal with issues that arise.

So enter my quick 3 step process to determine if you need a lawyer.

1) Are you dealing with an insurance company or adjuster?

     - YES, you need a lawyer.  Insurance companies make money off of the money they don't pay out in claims. You obviously have a claim and they want to minimize the payout to you regardless of how nice they may initially seem. 

     -Just ask yourself this: "Would you listen to the devil on how to get to Heaven? Then why would you listen to the insurance adjuster about how to settle a claim against them?"--Trey  Mills

2) Are you dealing with a rude employee, disgruntled employee, or frontline of a company?

      -Probably Not. You need to make sure you document whatever the situation may be. Then reach out to the next level of management or ownership. If the wrong, or negligent act, that has been committed on you is not addressed by the next level of management or ownership then you need to determine the damages you have incurred. If those damages are simply hurt feelings and/or pride you don't need a lawyer. If those damages are monetary and amount to more than a few thousand dollars then you may need a lawyer. If those damages are less than a few thousand dollars you may have alternative routes such as Magistrate Court, or Small Claims court. (Charleston County has online FAQs) You do not need a laywer to represent you in Magistrate Court in South Carolina, or most states. Think Judge Judy but less dramatic, not on television, and not as timely. 

3) Are you trying to pursue a wrong from a company or person that has no assets, money, or insurance because "it just ain't right?" 

    -Probably not. You have certainly heard of the term, "You can't get blood out of a turnip." If not click on the previous link and don't tell anyone you didnt know that. When I question the viability of a case or know that there is little to be gained from it, I request a retainer fee. That fee may very depending upon the case but it is usually at least $2,500.00. Are you willing to spend that much money to pursue your case? If not, then you don't need a lawyer. 

When you have performed this quick 3 step analysis and determined you need a lawyer, reach out to one. We don't bite.

We represent clients  that have been injured at work, in wrecks, dog bites, slip and falls, nursing home abuse cases, and product liability claims arising out of South Carolina and Georgia.  Call us toll free at 1-800-483-0880, contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or just stop by. We offer free consultations to determine if we can assist with your legal needs. 

This Expert Institute's 2015 Best Legal Blog Nominee Needs Your Votes

 

From a field of more than 2,000 potential nominees, SC Injury Law Journal Blog has received enough
nominations to join the 250 legal blogs participating in one of the largest competitions for legal blog writing online today. 

Now that the blogs have been nominated and placed into their respective categories, it is up to their readers to select the very best. With an open voting format that allows participants one vote per blog, the competition will be a true test of the dedication of each blog's existing readers, while also giving up-and-coming players in the legal blogging space exposure to a wider audience.

Each blog will compete for rank within its category, while the three blogs that receive the most votes in any category will be crowned overall winners.

The competition will run from August 27th until the close of voting at 12:00AM onOctober 9th, at which point the votes will be tallied and the winners announced.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE

 

Will Workers' Compensation Cover an Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Injury?

Many times when people are involved in a work accident, they will aggravate an old injury. We oftentimes hear concerns from these individuals that the Workers’ Compensation (“WC”) insurance carrier MAY NOT cover medical treatment for these types of re-injuries.  So the question in South Carolina becomes, is a work accident that aggravates and/or makes worse a pre-existing injury covered by the employer’s WC insurance carrier?

The simple answer to this question is YES.  According to S.C. Code Ann. § 42-9-35 -  

(A) The employee shall establish by a preponderance of the evidence, including medical evidence, that:

(1) the subsequent injury aggravated the preexisting condition or permanent physical impairment; or

(2) the preexisting condition or the permanent physical impairment aggravates the subsequent injury. 

What does this mean to my WC injury and claim?  If your WC claim is denied because of an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, it is necessary that YOU obtain the opinion of your treating physician that “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty,” that it is more probable than not that the work accident aggravated the pre-existing condition. How can I obtain this medical opinion?
 
 If your claim is denied because of this particular situation, it is always best to discuss your claim with attorneys experienced in these matters.  As attorneys working with WC clients on a daily basis, Ernie Trammell and Roy Trammell have spent countless hours drafting doctor affidavits for clients whose claims are being temporarily denied because of this reason.   
 
What if my pre-existing condition is degenerative in nature?
 
If your work accident aggravates and/or makes worse a condition like arthritis, your employer’s carrier must cover the claim.  As noted above though, a treating physician does have to document that in his opinion based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it is more probable than not that the work accident aggravated the arthritis in the body part injured.  
 
Regardless of your Workers' Compensation question or issue, we are here to help. If you have been injured on the job, please give us a call for your free consultation. Call us at 1-864-231-7171, find us on Facebook, or Twitter. We are here to help. 

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY ROY TRAMMELL, a Workers' Compensation attorney. 

Tort Reform Results: Higher Insurance Profits, Lower Patient Safety Initiatives & Higher Med Mal Premiums for Doctors

A recent Forbes article written by Steve Cohen entitled, "On Tort Reform, It's Time to Declare Victory and Withdraw", debunks the myths set forth many years ago when the catchy phrased initiative first started. Given the many states that have passed those "reforms", aka insurance company dream goals to make more money, quantitative information is available to actually measure results. Since many of you went along hook line and sinker, let's see what you have done to yourselves. Drum roll please....

  • FALSE: ER doctors had a fear of malpractice lawsuits and thus ordered unnecessary care causing wasteful healthcare spending and costing us all. With tort reform in place, ER doctors have not stopped ordering unnecessary care and raising healthcare costs.  

This Forbes article sites an investigating in The New England Journal of Medicine entitled, "The Effect of Malpractice Reform on Emergency Department Care" which determined:

BACKGROUND

Many believe that fear of malpractice lawsuits drives physicians to order otherwise unnecessary care and that legal reforms could reduce such wasteful spending. Emergency physicians practice in an information-poor, resource-rich environment that may lend itself to costly defensive practice. Three states, Texas (in 2003), Georgia (in 2005), and South Carolina (in 2005), enacted legislation that changed the malpractice standard for emergency care to gross negligence. We investigated whether these substantial reforms changed practice

RESULTS

For eight of the nine state–outcome combinations tested, no policy-attributable reduction in the intensity of care was detected. We found no reduction in the rates of CT or MRI utilization or hospital admission in any of the three reform states and no reduction in charges in Texas or South Carolina.

Mr. Cohen goes on to write that:

This latest study follows numerous others that deflated other tort reform myths: that making it harder for victims to file medical malpractice lawsuits would reduce the number of “frivolous” suits that “clog the courts;” that imposing caps on the damages victims could receive would reign in “out of control” juries that were awarding lottery-size sums to plaintiffs; and that malpractice insurance premiums would fall, thereby reversing a doctor shortage caused by specialists “fleeing the profession.”
 
None of these promised benefits became reality. That’s because the alleged problems were themselves non-existent. 
 
  • FALSE: Medical malpractice premiums will be lower for doctors with reform in place as insurance companies will pass along the savings. HAH! As a lawyer working against insurance companies,we all knew this was a scam but it was still shocking how many people believed it. 

 

While insurance premiums haven’t gone down, their price increases in tort reform states have gone up a little slower than in non-reform states – the lag is between 6% and 13%.  That hasn’t constrained the insurance industry from showing record profits.   Average returns for malpractice carriers hover around 15.6%, far better than the 12.5% for the property/casualty segment. And the malpractice insurers’ loss ratio – the percentage of claims to premiums — is a remarkably low 61.1%.

In 1999 the Institute of Medicine at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences published its seminal study,"To Err is Human",  which concluded that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients are killed (and many more injured) in hospitals each year due to medical errors. That number – which is more than automobile and workplace accidents combined – doesn’t include deaths in doctors’ offices or clinics – such as the one where Joan Rivers recently died.  By 2011, a study in "HealthAffairs"  estimated the number of avoidable deaths was probably closer to one million.

It's unfortunate that so many Americans were duped by the evil insurance companies but there is still hope for change. Remind your legislative representatives that these myths have been debunked and tort reform is never a good idea.

The judicial system is in place for a reason and that is to allow a jury of your peers to hear the facts and evidence presented by our rules and make the most informed decision. 

Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC does not handle medical malpractice cases but we know several good law firms in the area that do, if you need assistance. However, we can not stand to see Americans constantly steam rolled by insurance propaganda. Start educating yourselves on the facts, not on the fluff and feel good. 

 

 

Injured on the Job? Too 'Job Scared' to File a Workers' Compensation Claim?

Many times we see potential clients fail to follow through with a Workers’ Compensation claim because they are “job scared.”  Some of the individuals may have a promising but new career with their employer, other times the individual has been employed with the same company for 20+ years and fear losing a good job.  If you have been injured on the job and are job scared, please read this before deciding NOT to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim.

It is illegal in South Carolina for an employer to fire an employee for initiating a Workers’ Compensation claim.  S.C. Code Ann. § 41-1-80 states:
 
 “no employer may discharge or demote any employee because the employee has instituted [in good faith]. . .” a Workers’ Compensation claim.
 
If you are legitimately injured while on the job and file a Workers’ Compensation claim against your employer, your employer can not terminate you for that reason
 
However, the law cited above does state that while you are pursuing a claim, your employer can fire you for other reasons, most commonly:
 
a) intoxication on the job;
b) destruction of the employer’s property;
c) habitual tardiness or absence from work;
        d) failure to meet established employer work standards;
        e) malingering; or
        f)  embezzlement.
 
If you do decide to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim, while still working, we inform our clients to ALWAYS report to work on time and stay on their best behavior while on the clock. If your employer is attempting to fire you while under a Workers’ Compensation claim, they will try and find a justifiable reason to terminate you that is unrelated to your job injury.    
 
If you are injured on the job but afraid of being terminated for pursuing your rights under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation laws, it is always advisable to speak with an attorney first.  We offer free consultations, so do not hesitate to call Ernie Trammell or Roy Trammell at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC located in upstate South Carolina as soon as possible after your work injury.  
 
 
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY ROY TRAMMELL, a Workers' Compensation attorney
Call and let Roy handle your case today, 864-231-7171 or trammellandmills.com 
 

South Carolina's Golden Corner's Only Super Lawyers Rising Star for 2015

The triad of counties encompassing the Golden Corner of South Carolina, Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens, only have one (1) attorney recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star in 2015- Congratulations Trey Mills

Floyd S. Mills III, aka "Trey", has been recognized again in 2015 as a Super Lawyers Rising Star in South Carolina . As a partner at Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC, Mr. Mills practices only personal injury law which encompasses anyone harmed by the negligence, ignorance, or omissions of others. Trey loves fighting against faceless insurance companies that only seem to know one word, "No." 

The motivating factor that caused Trey Mills to become a lawyer was when he was dying of leukemia, more specifically ALL, at the age of 17 and heard his mother constantly yelling on the phone with insurance providers pleading with them to process payment to the wonderful medical facilities, medical workers, and doctors that were trying to save his life. The only reason that evil insurance company didn't make payment, delayed payment, or tried to deny payment was because it was very expensive to cover the costs of a dying human and insurance companies are in business to make money not save lives. Well fortunately, Mr. Mills lived but more importantly others impacted by the evil insurance companies can now have someone that is truly:

  • on their side, not on the side of the negligent party (Nationwide);
  • providing a helping hand and pat on the shoulder versus the good hands around your neck (Allstate);
  • your neighbor in Anderson & Oconee Counties, not in some call center in Duluth, GA (State Farm);
  • not going to equate you to a dog and pat you on the head to recognize good behavior (Travelers);
  • not going to have some crazy eyed, all white dressed woman named "Ho" to berate you (Progressive); or
  • not consider you to be the scapegoat for someone else's actions or lick his eyes with his tongue (GEICO).  

 

 

 

 

The selection process for being selected into this group is as follows:

The selection process for the Rising Stars list is the same as the Super Lawyers selection process, with one exception: to be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. All attorneys first go through the Super Lawyers selection process. Those who are not selected to the Super Lawyers list, but who meet either one of the Rising Stars eligibility requirements, go through the Rising Stars selection process. While up to five percent of the lawyers in the state are named to Super Lawyers, no more than 2.5 percent are named to the Rising Stars list

 

Are You Covered By Workers' Compensation If You Fall at Work?

         Don't fall victim to the "There Ain't Nothing Wrong With the Floor" defense. If you trip over an object on the floor at work and fall, you are almost certain to be covered by the workers’ compensation laws.  But what happens if you simply fall at work on a completely level floor or on a smooth rug and there is no obvious cause for your fall?  What if your employer responds that you can not get workers’ compensation benefits because “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall?  Is the employer right?

Let’s look at three different scenarios:
Situation 1
 
Assume that my paralegal, Ashley, is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and trips over a magazine that had been inadvertently dropped on the floor by a client.  Is she covered under our workers' compensation laws?
 
Yes, she is covered because she suffered an injury by accident at work during the course and scope of her employment.  Since the workers’ compensation system is a “no fault” system, it doesn’t matter whether Ashley could have avoided that accident because fault is irrelevant in a workers’ compensation claim. 
 
Situation 2
 
Let’s now assume that Ashley is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and loses her balance and falls for no apparent reason.  There was nothing specifically on the floor that had caused her to fall.  Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?
 
Yes, she needs only to prove a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is required to be performed and the resulting injury.  The fact that Ashley suffered an “unexplained fall” does not preclude her from being covered by workers’ compensation.  There does not have to be some work hazard on the floor causing the employee to fall in order for there to be workers’ compensation coverage.  Instead, she again only needs to prove that she was injured during the course and scope of her employment.  It is no defense for the employer to deny coverage because  “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall.
 
Situation 3
 
Let’s assume that Ashley has a bad knee which has bothered her for years.  As she is walking down the hall with a hand full of files, her bad knee simply gives away and she falls.  There was nothing on the floor that had cause her to fall.  As she was being helped up from the floor by her co-workers, Ashley responded that “my knee just gave away.”  Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?
 
No, in this case Ashley would be determined to have suffered an “idiopathic fall.”  That is a fall caused solely by an inherent medical condition (the bad knee) or weakness which is specific to Ashley.  An “idiopathic fall” is much different than the “unexplained fall” described above in Situation 2.  In an “idiopathic fall” the burden of proof is on the employer to establish that the fall was caused solely by Ashley’s inherent medical condition.  It will be easy for the employer to prove that Ashley’s fall was idiopathic because she admitted it when she told her co-workers that “my knee just gave away.”  A fall caused by fainting is also an example of an idiopathic fall.
 
The Moral of the Story
 
If you suffer a fall at work, you will be covered by workers’ compensation if a specific work hazard (like water on the floor or an object on the floor) causes you to fall or if your fall is simply unexplained.  The only way you lose is if the employer can prove that your “unexplained fall” was actually an “idiopathic fall” in that it was caused solely by your inherent medical condition, which had nothing at all to do with your work or work environment.  Therefore, if you do have the misfortune of falling at work, by all means tell the truth to your employer as to what happened but don’t carelessly make a statement in the midst of your natural embarrassment that you fell because your bad knee gave away (unless that is in fact what happened)!
 
If you fall at work and have questions regarding your claim, please do not hesitate to contact Ernie Trammell at Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC.   Ernie Trammell has been a practicing law for 32 years and has focused the last 15 years of his practice solely on representing injured workers in workers’ compensation claims in South Carolina and Georgia

 

RELATED ARTICLES by Ernie Trammell:

 
 
 

 

Insurance Adjusters Admit to Being Fined for Saying Yes

Many of us remember the "Just Say No" Campaign in an effort to fight the war on drugs. Green shirts were promoted among children with the popular saying to try and thwart our small minds from saying "Yes" to experimental drugs.  In the name of public policy a governmental agency created a slogan, provided t-shirts to poor children and pushed their agenda through the public education system keeping many from being able to enjoy the high of quality street drugs.  

Apparently this "Just Say No" campaign was not just one for the war on drugs but was also accepted by major insurance companies such as Progressive, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, Safeco, GAINSCO, and Sentry. Just recently, guilt ridden insurance adjusters have come forward admitting that anytime they would say the word "Yes" on the phone with a claimant, they would be fined $500.00. Adversely, the more times they said the word "No" the more opportunities they would have for a professional advancement. 

Many of you have probably encountered this type of interaction after being involved in a motor vehicle collision or having an insurance claim against one of these companies when all the adjuster on the other end of the phone would say is "No".  A recent transcript was released in the article detailing this incident and illustrated how the slogan worked to make billions after taxes for these companies:  (Person Injured- PI) & ( Adjuster Saying Slogan - ASS)

PI: I was just injured by one your insureds when they slammed into the back of us while drunk and driving with a suspended license. 

ASS: No, you didn't. Not possible. No way that could happen. 

PI: Hello? I'm sorry what did you say?

ASS: No. 

PI: No, what?

ASS: No. No means no. No, no, no.

PI: We seem to have a disconnect here. I have an accident report showing what I just told you and video on my phone showing your insured stumbling out of the car with two cases of beer and trying to make a run for it. He didn't get far before he fell face first into a ditch and just started drinking again. 

ASS: Sir, we do not provide insurance to people that drink and do bad things. If we do, we say they didnt do it, we then deny the claim, delay it, and defend it in court just to prove to you we mean no. 

If you have an experienced this kind of interaction with the above companies, please give us a call as we are looking for class members to fight against this injustice. It may be the first day of April, aka April Fools Day, but we are still here to help you and believe this is real. 

 

OTHER ARTICLES WRITTEN FOR THIS SPECIAL DAY

Trey Mills Retiring at 36

Allstate Makes Me an Offer I Can't Refuse

South Carolina Litigation Firms Admit They Only Litigate for Insurance Companies