What Is a Treatment Gap?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident or other type of personal injury, it’s very important for to you avoid having a treatment gap.  A treatment gap is the period of time that exists between the time of your injury and the time that you first receive medical treatment.  A treatment gap can also occur in the middle of your therapy plan if you miss multiple doctors’ appointments.

Is A Treatment Gap Important?

It can be.  Some treatment gaps are reasonable and others are not.  Here are a few examples of both types of treatment gaps:

Bad Treatment Gaps

1- You’re injured in a car accident, but you have a hard time fitting in doctors’ appointments with all of the responsibilities you have with your family, work, and social life. You don’t seek any medical treatment and then you call the other driver’s insurance company after 4 months to see if they can refer a doctor to treat you.  The other driver’s insurance company says they don’t refer doctors and it doesn’t matter because they will not consider paying for medical treatment at this time.

2- You feel sore after a motorcycle accident, so you go to an urgent care facility to get checked out. The urgent care doctor prescribes you muscle relaxers and pain pills.  The doctor tells you to follow up with a chiropractor or other medical provider if the pain continues.  The pain pills help for the two weeks that you take them, but the pain comes back once the pills are gone.  You try to struggle through the pain and finally reach your tipping point six months later.

What’s A Reasonable Treatment Gap?

1- You’ve been in a car accident. Your adrenaline is pumping, but you don’t seem to have any broken bones and you aren’t gushing blood.  You’re concerned about the expense of riding in an ambulance and you’re more “shook up” than anything else.  You decide to not go to the hospital right now. Instead, you have a friend drive you home and decide to wait and see how you feel tomorrow morning. The next day, you wake up and have unbearable pain in your low back.  You have a shocking sensation that is running down your legs and sometimes your legs go numb.  You decide to go see a doctor right away.

2- You’ve been injured in a truck accident, so you started seeing a doctor three weeks ago. You have a therapy appointment that was scheduled for two days ago and another appointment that is scheduled for today.  Unfortunately, you have a bad case of the flu and missed your appointment two days ago and will miss your appointment today.  You call your doctor and tell the doctor you are still very sick.  You explain that you will not be able to make your appointment today.  The doctor’s office schedules a new appointment for three days from now.  They also add a note in your file that says you are still sick and plan on coming in for therapy in three days.

How Do I Know If I Have a Good or Bad Treatment Gap?

Each situation is different, but the main thing to consider is how will a jury of twelve strangers view your treatment gap.  In other words, is your situation something that can be explained to a jury?  Can we help the members of the jury to conclude that your treatment gap is reasonable and didn’t have a negative impact on your treatment?  In the alternative, will your treatment gap cause members of a jury to take a pessimistic view by saying “I don’t think she is really hurt.  If she was really hurt, she would not have waited 4 months to seek medical treatment.”

How Much of a Treatment Gap is Too Much?

It’s important to remember that each case is unique, but here are a few general guidelines. We’ve found that it can be difficult to convince a jury that you are seriously injured if you have a treatment gap of more than three weeks.  However, some injuries, such as concussions, do not manifest themselves right away.

Treatment gaps during your treatment plan are more difficult to gauge.  For example, let’s assume that you go to a hospital two days after your car accident.  When you’re at the hospital, the doctor prescribes you a two-week supply of muscle relaxers and pain pills.  You follow the doctor’s orders and take the prescriptions most days, but you still have significant pain three weeks later when you run out of pills.  In this situation, I believe that a jury would not hold it against you for not seeking additional medical treatment right away.

On the other hand, let’s imagine that you are injured in a car accident and start to receive chiropractic treatment for your injuries.   The chiropractic treatment is helpful, but you don’t make it to the chiropractor for three weeks because your life is extra busy during this time.  In this situation, a jury might be led to believe that your injuries were only minor because you didn’t even need to see a doctor for three weeks.

Call Us to Discuss Your Options

Treatment gaps can have a significant impact on the amount of compensation you receive for your personal injury case.  Allbee Law Firm is a personal injury law firm that gives free consultations to all potential personal injury clients.  Don’t hesitate to call us, even if you believe that your treatment gap is too long already.  Even if we don’t accept your case, we are willing to share our knowledge and insights.  We hope to point you in a direction that will help you obtain the best result possible.   You can call us at (817) 244-6453 or make arrangements to meet us at our Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas offices.

About the Author

Mike Allbee is an experienced personal injury trial attorney. He focuses his practice on representing victims of car accidents, truck accidents, wrongful death, and other types of personal injuries.

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