By: Alexander C. Eisner, Esq. and Shawn Steel, Esq.
You have your degree, you hang your shingle, and patients start walking through the door. Success! You have heard of the benefits of having a well-diversified practice, so you do some insurance, some cash, maybe even some worker’s compensation or Medicare cases, but…how to branch out into the world of Personal Injury?
Go First to the Well
Your current patients are going to be your most precious PI resource. The first thing you need to do to cultivate and convert existing patients into PI patients is to inform them that you do PI. This most simple solution is often overlooked. Do not take for granted that your patients know that they can come to you after an accident; most do not.
Your license affords you the right and responsibility to treat the whole body. You are the quarterback of your patient’s PI case. In contrast to your non-PI patients in the past, trauma is dramatically different.
Start with providing literature in your waiting room informing patients that you handle personal injury cases. Often a simple, “What To Do After An Accident” pamphlet can be remarkably effective. We offer these pamphlets at no cost to any DC. These pamphlets will not only provide some much-needed information to your patients about the steps to take after an accident but also direct instructions to make an appointment with you immediately.
You can and should also comment directly to every new and former patient, while explaining all of the ways in which you heal your patients, that you also take trauma cases. Taking 30 seconds to talk to your patient at the end of an adjustment is the most valuable advertising time you can’t buy. Immediately after you alleviate someone’s pain is the most trusted and listened to you will ever be—so don’t waste it.
Family days are encouraged. All past and current patients are invited to bring their families for chiropractic evaluation. Remind each person your office handles car accidents.
Quarterly emails or postcards reminding them of your clinic and a brief mention that you can care for auto accidents will help remind former patients.
Too often after an accident, patients make an appointment with their Primary Care Physician and are set off on a course that results in opioid prescription and possible addiction. This is not only a travesty for your patients but it’s contributing directly to the opioid epidemic in this country! So, make sure every patient who walks through your door for any reason knows that you are their number one resource and advocate after they or their loved ones get into an accident.
Referrals From Allies
It is tempting to view chiropractic as inherently at odds with treatment from MDs but this simply isn’t true. MDs and DCs both strive to heal patients in different ways and, in fact, work in tandem during most PI cases.
Do not overlook the MDs as a source of referral. Many MDs depend on chiropractic referrals and a regular, friendly reminder to these doctors will help remind them that you are a key source of their business and they could return the favor.
Urgent Care Clinics are another great resource.They are often overrun with car accident victims looking for pain relief, andthe MDs are often overworked and looking for a place to send their trauma patients. Consider a personal visit to these local clinics to inform them that your office is ready and willing to care for these time-consuming patients.
Be A Resource
Once all your patients know, at least anecdotally, that you take PI cases, you will need to remind them often with valuable content. Open a social media account for your office (open all of the social media accounts for your office) and invite all your patients to Like, Follow, Share, and Join. Then aim to provide them with content once per week. This doesn’t have to be remarkably time consuming, but providing things like a new stretch, a new piece of equipment you acquired, a patient success story, a horror story of a patient who got to you just in the nick of time, or a relevant news article are perfect ways of connecting to your patients and an easy way of subtly reminding them that you are not just there for them, but are an authority on trauma and personal injury.
You Have The Pi Case, Now What?
Once you get a PI case the fun really begins. The first question most clients ask is, “Do I need an attorney?” You must now put on your attorney hat and ask some questions designed to ferret out whether your patient is at-fault for the accident or if the case is a MIST case.
MIST stands for Minor Impact, Soft Tissue. You can spot a MIST case when you ask to see the pictures of the accident and have to ask, “Where is the damage to your car?” This is the type of case with minimal damage and/or such minor injuries that they will never show up on any imaging study. If you determine you are dealing with a MIST case or your patient is likely at fault for the accident, they likely do not need an attorney, but will still need a good doctor. You will treat those as cash patients or insurance patients or, at best, Med Pay patients but you will likely not have a PI cases on your hands.
Picking a Good Pi Attorney is a Science
If your patient is innocent and suffered real injuries, your client absolutely needs an attorney. And not just any attorney—agood, Pro-Chiropractic one. You are about to trust this attorney with a lien, which is a promise to pay your bills later after the case settles. Bad attorneys take bad cases, settle them for small money, and have nothing left to pay your bills with when the dust clears. Evil attorneys take your cases, settle them for good money, and attempt to ‘negotiate with’ (read: screw) you out of your hard-earned money. You have a right and, indeed, an obligation to steer your patients toward reputable attorneys who are known for looking after the chiropractor. How will you know a good attorney from a bad one? Glad you asked. There are 4 steps and good attorneys must get an “A” in each step.
1. Does your attorney sign your lien? Your lien is your safety net. Without it, attorneys have no enforceable obligation to ensure that you get paid at the end of a PI case. With a signed lien, however, the attorney is obligated to ensure that you are paid out of the proceeds of the case. The case cannot be completely closed until you agree to your portion of that distribution.
If your attorney procrastinates signing your lien, sends it back with cross-outs or edits, or outright refuses to sign, you should consider thanking them. They have told you up-front that they plan to screw you in the end.
2. Does your attorney provide you with the medical records, police report, pictures of the accident, and insurance information? These things are crucial to your analysis of the case, your work up, and your strategy. Any attorney who attempts to hide these things from you is no friend of yours.
3. Does your attorney call you?You should be able to speak with the PI attorney on your case within a few weeks after you refer them a case. Not a paralegal, not a case manager, an attorney.
Does your attorney have a chiropractor? Any attorney who accepts chiropractic liens on his or her cases but does not see a chiropractor themselves is selling something they do not believe in. Consider inviting this misguided attorney down to your clinic to see what you are all about.
Picking a Good Pi Attorney is a Science
Of course not! The world of PI is ever-changing. Those who master it are perpetual students of it and find a lucrative and incredibly rewarding practice. PI cases afford you the opportunity to heal those patients that are hurting the most in a safe and minimally invasive way without resorting to drugs and scalpels. It also affords you the opportunity to take your practice in a new and exciting direction, hurtling you into the realm of the chiropractic greats.
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