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Chronic Pain Cases: Why it’s important to have a family doctor

If you keep up with the news, you will know there’s a shortage of family doctors. This shortage is more pronounced in rural or remote communities. Perhaps the notion of a shortage of family doctors isn’t accurate, but I’ll let the people at the Ministry of Health and the OMA debate that.

I’m sure we can all agree that people are having a tough time finding family doctors as many people in Ontario are WITHOUT family doctors. Many doctors aren’t accepting new patients.

Family doctors are very important. They represent the front line with respect to medical care and attention when you’re sick, injured or hurt.

In my travels across Ontario, I’m never shocked when people tell me that they don’t have a family doctor or that they haven’t seen a doctor in many years.

Lots of people don’t like going to see the doctor. The doctor’s office may conjure up bad memories, feelings of worry, or helplessness; so going to the doctor’s office isn’t a priority. Or, they can’t find the time in their busy work schedule to see a doctor. Or, perhaps they’ve had no reason for a very long time to get a family doctor when they have no pressing health problems. Or, their community just doesn’t have a family doctor nearby who’s taking on new patients. The closest family doctor might be a few hours drive away and making that drive just isn’t practical.

Our lawyers understand this. But, when an accident happens, the family doctor may be the most important medical professional for your case. Particularly in a chronic pain case.

* Note: We understand that some people without family doctors may see a nurse practitioner, or may attend at walk in clinics or at Emergency at Hospital. A client recently tried to attend at Emergency in the Kawarthas (I won’t tell you the hospital) late at night and had a wait time of 3 hours. In any event, if you don’t have a regular family doctor because you just can’t get one, a nurse practitioner or a local walk in clinic is the next best thing. Those wait times in the Emergency Room at the hospital can be just too long.

Why is a family doctor so important to my chronic pain case?

Good question. In order to prove damages, we have to show medical evidence that you’re injured.

The very nature of chronic pain is that it likely won’t show up on any x-ray test or scan. It’s your word that you’re in pain vs. the insurance company’s word along with their experts who get paid a lot of money to say what the insurance company wants them to say.

It’s not enough for an accident victim to get up on the stand and tell the Court that they’re in pain. That sort of evidence just isn’t good enough for a Judge or Jury. We need to show compelling medical evidence that the Plaintiff is in fact in pain and suffering and that their chronic pain is very real and not fabricated as the insurance company will try to convince others to believe.

One of the ways we prove that is through the clinical notes and records of the family doctor. If you attend at your doctor’s office to address your pain and suffering arising from your accident; then this ought to be reflected in your doctor’s clinical notes and records. Those records provide a comprehensive HISTORY of your pain and your treatment. It makes your pain come to life for the Court and support your testimony that your pain and suffering is in fact very real, and very significant.

The logic of the Court , Judge and insurer is that if you don’t have pain, then you won’t visit a doctor to address your pain complaints. Hence: if you don’t have a family doctor and you’re not being treated for your pain; then your pain must not really exist.Ontario-Trillium.jpg

In a chronic pain case, the credibility of the accident victim is paramount. Having a family doctor’s voice and records to support the Plaintiff’s cause is very important.

Insurers will stop at nothing to undermine a Plaintiff’s credibility. They will conduct surveillance to show them doing things they shouldn’t be doing. They will stalk them on line to get the dirt they need to damage a Plaintiff’s case. They will hire medical experts to conjure up reports to undermine their injuries. This is why having a good family doctor in a chronic pain case is so important. They can help refute all of these notions because they understand your pain better than anyone being your treating physician.

In addition, the family doctor is able to properly treat the Plaintiff for their pain. They can prescribe medication; change that prescription to another medication or a stronger dose of medication if the first trial didn’t work properly. The family doctor can make referrals to analysts to better understand or better treat the chronic pain. They can make referrals to pain clinics (funded by OHIP), to rheumatologists for joint pain or fibromyalgia or arthritis, to neurologists for radiating pain down from the back to the legs or for headaches, dizziness, or seizures, to physiatrists who are concentrated doctors that only deal with chronic pain. They can also refer you to local community resources such as pain management groups to help you with coping strategies, give you some exercises or even show you to a good physiotherapy clinic.

At the end of the day, the family doctor is probably the best FREE resource an accident victim has to help them cope with their chronic pain problems. There is really no excuse as a Canadian citizen who is supposed to have access to free health care to at the very least make best efforts to get a family doctor so that when there’s an emergency or a health scare, you have someone by your side to help you along with way (not including your personal injury lawyer should you need to sue).

I’m certain that our friends south of the Canadian Border would take advantage of this great resource. The notion of free health care? Anything free south of the border goes really quickly.

Here is a great tool from the Ontario Ministry of Health Website on how to find a family doctor who is taking on new patients in your area. All you need to do is enter the community where you live and search. The search for a doctor can be as close as 5km, or as far as 100+km. There’s really no excuse not to look if you don’t have a doctor. It’s good for your health. It’s good for your case. I know from experience.

Enough law and health talk? Sure. On to current affairs. Today Scotland will vote whether or not they’re going to be an independent country free of the United Kingdom. I don’t follow Scottish Politics. But as a Canadian, this sounds very familiar to the Quebec Referendums of 1980 and 1995. I’m interested to see the results and what the tone will be for Scotland and Great Britain relations after the vote.

I’d also like to comment on Toronto’s baseball team who recently got swept in a road series in Baltimore. I thought that was supposed to be a meaningful series? Getting swept when the money was on the line? That just sends a very bad message back to your fans across Canada and in Ontario. That one stung really bad. Looks like another solid 2nd or 3rd or even 4th place finish in the A.L. East for this club. Better luck next year. We’ve been saying that for a very long time around Toronto (see the Hockey Club, Soccer Club, Basketball Club…)

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