We’ve all seen the lawyer advertising on TV, billboards and buses. Several proclaim “We will find a doctor for you!”
We do not refer our clients to treating medical care providers. “We are lawyers, not doctors,” we tell our clients. Why?
Doctors should not provide legal advice to their patients. Likewise, attorneys should not provide medical advice to their clients. As attorneys, ethically we may not direct a client’s medical care, advise on matters like continuing or ceasing treatment, or whether to undergo a surgical procedure that our client’s doctor recommends.
Besides ethical concerns, practical considerations make such conduct ill-advised. Our clients’ cases often proceed into litigation, during which our client may provide a deposition. “How did you first meet Dr. Smith?” the defense attorney asks. Our clients will never say, “My lawyer told me to go see her.” The defense attorney may view such a relationship between the lawyer and doctor as problematic. . . and so may a jury.
There is one exception. In cases where our clients have suffered permanent injuries that will adversely affect their lives, we often ask treating providers, and where not available independent medical physicians, to examine our clients and provide opinions regarding their injuries and future care needs. This includes opinions regarding current condition, prognosis, permanent physical limitations, impairment rating, and the type and cost of recommended future medical care. These “independent medical examinations” assist us in evaluating our clients’ damages, and are not sought to direct their medical care. And when a client suffers life-long permanent injuries, such medical opinions are vital to obtain the best result possible in their case.
Doctors diagnose and treat us. They should not be giving legal advice. Attorneys represent our legal interests. They should not be giving medical advice.