When to See a Family Doctor/ General Practitioner

 It is important that you see your family doctor right away after an accident to record your injuries

Unfortunately, ICBC defense tactics in a personal injury claim require that you make regular visits to and from your family doctor, regardless of whether there is really much benefit from an injury recovery perspective.  Also, it’s important that you see your family doctor right away after an accident to record your injuries. This is particularly important as soon as the ICBC no-fault scheme comes into effect April 1, 2019 because a lack of doctor visits almost guarantees ICBC will cap your injury claim as a “minor injury”.

The family doctor is required to make notes in your clinical chart of each visit and the complaints at each visit.  Then, at some point, the family doctor will be required to provide a medical legal report setting out the various visits you had with the doctor as well as the complaints you made.  Next, the doctor will provide an opinion, which includes a diagnosis of your injuries, together with the determination of any long-term effect the injuries may have on you.

In most personal injury claims, the clinical records of your family doctor are provided to ICBC. The adjuster and/or defense lawyer will carefully review the records for inconsistencies, lack of reporting of injuries, intervening events, lack of objective injuries, pre-accident health issues, etc. Hence, your family doctor really becomes a “sounding board” for all your complaints before and after the accident. This fact necessarily requires you to provide a complete summary of your complaints to your family doctor whenever you go to see your doctor.

If you do not see your family doctor for several months at a time, ICBC will take advantage of this fact. ICBC will use this lack of visits to suggest that you have not been seeing your family doctor because you have recovered, or, alternatively, your injuries are of a “minor injury” category.  Therefore, if you still have problems from your car accident, it’s necessary to continue to see your family doctor, even if you are just updating the doctor on your condition. While this approach might not be cost effective for the Medical Service Plan, the reality of the situation is that the ICBC no-fault scheme incentivizes claimants to document their injuries in this matter through the family doctor.

One common concern is whether to switch doctors if your family doctor appears unsupportive or is hard to get into. The simple answer is unless you get one of those doctors that downplay your injuries to the benefit of ICBC, and there are dozens of those doctors in B.C., try to stick it out with the family doctor. Often, you will be surprised that the doctor will write a good report to help your case when called upon to do so despite the way the doctor treats you in the examining room. Some doctors just lack “bedside manners”.

If you switch, ICBC and the Court may form the impression that you are “doctor shopping”. An “adverse inference” may then be drawn against you to imply that the first family doctor was not prepared to support your claim of injury. However, if you are heading towards a “minor injury” classification due to your doctor not accepting the severity of your injuries, the value of switching to a more supportive doctor outweighs the negative.

In many areas of British Columbia, getting a family doctor is difficult and patients go to walk-in clinics. The problem with going to a walk-in clinic is you may see multiple doctors at the clinic and no one doctor will write a report to support your injury claim. ICBC will, in turn, underpay your claim as you have no medical support to the injuries. Therefore, look long and hard for a family doctor.

The problem though is under the ICBC No-fault Scheme, for accidents after April 1, 2019, there is likely going to be a growing number of family doctors that will not agree to treat you for your ICBC injury claim. The reason being, the new legislation has created some rather onerous and time sensitive reporting requirements to ICBC, all at an unattractive fee schedule. Since the reporting is mandatory, some doctors are expected to shy away from ICBC claimants.

Fortunately, there are some family doctors specializing in injury claims particularly in the larger urban centers. The expectation is that after April 1, 2019, their practices will be very busy making it more difficult to enter their practice as a patient.

In summary, family doctors are a critical component in advancing your ICBC injury claim.  Regularly use the doctor as a “sounding board” of your ongoing injury complaints so as to avoid a designation of “minor injury” when your condition is quite disabling.