Doctor’s Office 101: If You Are Injured or Disabled, You are Not “Fine” and Not “Doing Well”
Southerners are well known for being polite. We take pride in this reputation. When asked how we’re doing, we respond with “I’m okay,” “I’m doing well,” or even something like “I’m fine as frog hair.” We want to give the impression that we’re getting along in life. We certainly wouldn’t want to “be a bother.” However, there are times when we need to face reality with who we are and what is happening with our health. This is particularly true if you’re seeking compensation for injuries associated with a personal injury event such as an automobile accident, a workman’s compensation claim, or Social Security disability/SSI benefits.
The Legal Consequences of Saying “I’m Fine”
As an injury attorney who specializes in Social Security/SSI benefits, one of the biggest obstacles to success I deal with is injured folks who often tell their doctor they’re doing well, yet their exam findings reveal just the opposite. I understand sometimes folks mean to say they are “doing fine” in the context of how bad things could be, or that they’re comparing themselves to someone else. But Social Security’s decision-makers often don’t view statements in context. Generally, they view the statement “patient states doing well today” as if the person should be able to work given those types of statements to the very person (the doctor) they’re supposed to be talking to about their medical problems. Think about it this way—if you were a disability judge who heard a person seeking benefits state that they were in pain to the point that they had to lie down through parts of the day, yet their doctor’s notes say they are “doing well,” what would you decide in their case?
I understand that what I’m saying sounds like, “So, you’re telling me to complain.” Not quite. I’m urging you to consider being frank with your doctor about how your medical problems affect you on a daily basis. If you have pain, tell your doctor where the pain is and what kind of activity makes it worse. If you get lightheaded and dizzy several times a day, as you can’t get your blood sugar under control, tell your doctor. If you have shortness of breath simply walking around the house, tell your doctor. I think you get the point. There is a reason you’re at the doctor’s office—communicate that not only to the nurse when you describe your problems initially, but then repeat it to the doctor. There is only one person who fully understands what is going on with your body—YOU. It’s up to you to tell the doctor what is the reality of your body and how it is doing.