Does Physical Therapy Increase a Settlement?
Category: Personal Injury
Article by Tuley Law staff
Recovery after an accident can often include prescribed physical therapy. Still, treatments cost money, so will it affect your personal injury settlement? The short answer is: probably. The more complicated answer is that no single formula can guarantee a specific settlement amount.
Physical therapy will no doubt play a role in your settlement case. Still, its impact depends on many variables, including the nature and severity of your injuries, your case’s specifics, and even your legal representation’s skills and expertise.
This article examines how physical therapy impacts settlements and how different variables may affect outcomes.
A Primer on Personal Injury Settlements in Indiana
In a personal injury settlement, the injured person (plaintiff) enters into a legal agreement with the person or entity responsible for the injury (defendant). The purpose of this settlement is to compensate the plaintiff for the damages they’ve suffered, which may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Personal injury cases typically involve two types of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages include tangible and quantifiable losses you can directly tie to the injury. The cost of physical therapy falls under economic damage since you can track the cost of each session, the work you miss for appointments, and travel expenses.
Non-economic damages include intangible losses that do not have a specific monetary value. These damages address the emotional and non-monetary impact of the injury, like pain and suffering, loss of consortium or companionship, or emotional distress. Since non-economic damages are subjective, they’re often hard to quantify.
It’s also helpful to know that Indiana follows a comparative fault rule. The courts may reduce your settlement if you are found partially at fault for your injury. For example, if your settlement is $10,000, and you’re 20% at fault, you may only receive $8,000.
Why Is Physical Therapy Important After an Injury?
Physical therapy techniques help with pain management, function restoration, and permanent damage prevention. It can also help you avoid surgery and adapt or learn new skills if an injury changes your physical capabilities.
Physical therapy is a broad practice. The most common type of therapy is orthopedic. It treats musculoskeletal conditions, including muscles, bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments.
However, there are many other types of physical therapy, including:
- Neurological physical therapy is for conditions that affect the nervous system, like spinal cord injuries.
- Vestibular rehabilitation aims to alleviate primary and secondary problems from vestibular disorders. This complex sensory system contributes to our balance and sense of spatial orientation.
- Aquatic therapy is performed in water to help reduce pressure while patients work on strength training or mobility.
- Heat or cryotherapy treatments can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
- Massage therapy involves manipulating the soft tissues to improve pain and circulation.
Your doctor and physical therapist will likely work together to find the right treatment plan that could include multiple approaches.
Next, we will look at how physical therapy might affect your settlement.
1. The Severity of Injury and Duration of Treatment
Medical expenses are a large part of most personal injury settlements. Physical therapy will fall into this bucket. The cost of physical therapy can vary depending on factors like the extent of the injury, the recommended type of therapy, the number of sessions needed, and the treatment location.
Physical therapy sessions can last for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. In this case, you’ll also have to claim future medical expenses. A doctor and your physical therapist can help you estimate your recovery time, and then you can calculate it based on the information available.
For example, if you need to attend a session every week for nine months, and each session will cost you $125, the entire treatment might cost you about $4,500 plus travel expenses. Suppose you’ve only completed two months of physical therapy. In that case, you’ll document the first $1,000 of expenses (plus travel costs) and make your case for future expenses.
Documentation is key to successfully claiming these costs. You should keep a record of all therapy sessions, the cost of each, and any other associated expenses.
One factor to consider is that the insurance company might not agree with the cost of physical therapy. They may argue that the number of sessions or the type of therapy was unnecessary.
You’ll benefit from having an experienced personal injury attorney if the insurance company fights your physical therapy claim. An experienced personal injury attorney from Tuley Law can help you present your case effectively and demonstrate the necessity of your physical therapy costs.
2. Loss of Earning Capacity
Treatment is only part of the equation when it comes to injury settlements. The fact that you are undergoing physical therapy may also indicate that you can no longer work or earn at the same capacity as before the injury (also known as loss of earning capacity). You could also claim this economic damage in your settlement.
Attending therapy appointments may require you to miss work. If your injury is severe, you might be unable to perform your job duties outside the therapy sessions. In extreme cases, you might be unable to return to your profession.
For instance, a construction worker with a severe back injury may be unable to perform physically demanding tasks. Similarly, office workers with severe injuries might find sitting for long periods or typing painful or difficult.
You could be entitled to additional compensation if you cannot work or are forced to take a lower-paying job due to your injuries. Though calculating loss of earning capacity can be tricky, it typically relies on your previous and expected future earnings. An experienced attorney can help you navigate this claim.
3. Missing Physical Therapy Appointments
If you habitually miss physical therapy appointments, the defendant may argue that your injury isn’t as bad as you claim. In this scenario, physical therapy could reduce your settlement amount. It’s crucial to prioritize physical therapy if your doctor has prescribed it and you have started attending sessions.
In most personal injury cases, the insurance company pays the settlement money to the injured party, not the other way around. However, there are situations where an insurance company may be entitled to a portion of the settlement money (also known as subrogation).
Subrogation occurs when your own insurance company covers your medical bills before you get a settlement from the person or company responsible for your injury. In such cases, your insurance company may be entitled to be reimbursed for the medical expenses they paid. Subrogation claims are common.
In this situation, physical therapy might impact your settlement, but your insurance company (not you) will receive a portion of the additional money.
If you have an attorney, they will typically negotiate with your insurance company or medical providers as part of settling your claim. In addition, your attorney may be able to reduce the amount of money that must be repaid to the insurance company.
Start Your Personal Injury Claim With the Help of Tuley Law
Navigating a personal injury claim can be complex, especially when physical therapy and rehabilitation are involved. Experienced legal representation is crucial to ensure that all costs, including those for physical therapy, are adequately covered in the settlement.
At Tuley Law, our team of experienced personal injury attorneys understands the importance of physical therapy in recovery. We are committed to fighting for our client’s rights and ensuring they receive the compensation they deserve.
If you or a loved one has been injured and are undergoing physical therapy, contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll review your case, answer your questions, and discuss how we can help you secure the best possible outcome.
Have questions about your case?Contact us