A reason for your clients to reconsider chiropractic treatment

Most car accident cases involve some level of injury to the neck and/or back. Sometimes it’s just a strain that lasts a couple of days – sometimes it’s more severe.

Many victims of car accidents go to a chiropractor for treatment. Sounds reasonable, right? Not always.

I’m not a doctor. I don’t pretend to give medical advice to my clients, and their choices for treatment are entirely theirs to make. However, I have to tell my clients about how their medical treatment can affect their case (for instance, missing physical therapy appointments will hurt your recovery). One reality in personal injury practice today is that juries often do not like to pay for chiropractic treatment. My clients are always free to go, but they have to understand that they may not recover for this cost.

Here’s a great example why – a blog post by an actual juror – from the Jury Experiences blog (tip of the hat to Deliberations):

Before I go on, let me say that I figured out early that the plaintiff had seen a chiropractor. I figured it out due to questions the plaintiff’s attorney was asking. Let me also say that I 100% do not believe in Chiropractic Medicine. It’s a bunch of malarkey. So, when they called my name to sit on the jury, I kept thinking to myself “That stupid freakin’ attorney! Why didn’t he ask us what we thought of chiropractors?!?”

And I was right. The plaintiff had spent over $7000 on a chiropractor. And in my opinion, that was $7000 that he chose to spend, not that his injuries had forced him to spend, so no way in hell he was getting that money back. The prosecutor called their witnesses: the plaintiff’s wife, the officer on the scene, some guy that gave the plaintiff work to do, and a few others. Of course, he also called the Chiropractor herself, and he asked her questions for an entire HOUR AND A HALF! It was so horrible. First thing she said was that she attended Life University, and it was hard for me not to scoff. Then she went on to describe what chiropractors do and what magical nerve pathways exist that allow their voodoo to fix any ailment. She, of course, described the plaintiff’s injuries and why she was needed, etc… I really wanted to go up and choke the life from her, she was so stupid.

The part that really made me want to bash my head into the wall was when they said that the plaintiff had tried “regular” medicine and it didn’t work. He had tried pain killers and muscle relaxers for 1 week before he went to the chiropractor. Then, he said, and I quote, “the regular medicine just wasn’t working… the chiropractor did though. Not at first, but 3 months later I was really started to improve.” 3 months?!??! You stupid retard! Your body was naturally healing. You had back trauma, that’s fine, but realize that your body was healing itself in those 3 months, not the chiropractor.

Wow. Pretty strong statement, there. Obviously not all jurors are like that, but clients need to know that those jurors are out there, and attorneys need to be on the lookout for these jurors in voir dire.

See also – my post on Getting the Chiropractic Bills Paid.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer in Rock Island, Illinois)

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3 Comments

Filed under Juries, Trial Practice

3 responses to “A reason for your clients to reconsider chiropractic treatment

  1. I think the take home point is to ensure your clients are seeing an ethical, evidence-based chiropractor. Had I heard that nutjob from Life College on the stand, I would have wanted to choke her as well.

    Current guidelines do not permit three months of treatment prior to seeing improvement. Conditions should respond MUCH quicker, otherwise patients should be moved along to other types of treatments.

    As a chiropractor, I do not like testifying because I end up needing to stand up for the rest of my profession which includes wackadoodles like the above mentioned.

    – Brett L. Kinsler, DC
    Rochester, NY

  2. Very good points. Like every profession, there are good chiros and bad chiros, and the bad ones make people skeptical about the good ones.

    The statistics here in the Quad Cities (home of Palmer College) show that a large percentage of cases with chiropractic treatment result in verdicts that don’t even cover the medical bills. I’ve seen horror stories myself… sometimes it’s a chiro run amock (ie $36,000 in bills) and sometimes its a questionable connection between the accident and the injury (bumper tap cases). Often though, a reasonable client who gets reasonable treatment from an ethical chiropractor should be ok.

    Thanks for your input!

  3. My 2 cents as a chiropractor who often testifies in court and has been part of some very sizable recoveries for auto accident claims…

    The chiropractor must be competent and fully trained in treatment of whiplash through post-doctorate seminars. He or she must be fully trained in how to testify. What to say, what not to say. How not to act and how to connect with the jury.

    Chiro’s without adequate training and experience should not take PI cases. It’s a disservice to their patient. Attorneys should not refer to these DC’s either.

    As big as my ego is, I realize the way the world is. I provide treatment, excellent documentation and testimony, but I always have an ortho or neuro involved for cover. They are worthless for treatment, but good for credibility. Not ideal, but that’s just the way it is.

    The attorney must know how to present the case with a chiropractor involved. Many attorneys have no idea what I do and what I know, so they don’t know what to ask me. The horror story given was an anomaly and that was entirely the attorney’s fault for not screening him out. Ignorance in a juror is fine, but he was downright hostile.

    Attorneys need more training in the medical facts about whiplash. They are too often ready to sell their clients down the river for change on cases that could be worth much more.

    Just my opinions.

    Dr Barry L Marks, DC
    Former Associate Clinical Professor
    Advanced Graduate SRISD Whiplash & Brain Traumatology

    Go here for a Free online course “The Truth About Whiplash” it’s referenced and is a great resource for doctors and attorneys:
    http://www.truthaboutwhiplash.com

    Here’s a seminar series to consider for doctors and attorneys to learn the latest in whiplash research:
    http://www.srisd.com

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