10 Things You Must Know to Recover From and
When Selecting a Doctor or an Attorney After a Car Accident
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Introduction

Were you or a family member recently been injured in a car accident?
You might be wondering whether you should see a doctor or retain an attorney.
You might also be wondering how you can tell a great doctor or an attorney from a mediocre one for car accidents.

Picking the wrong doctor or attorney after a car accident can easily make it difficult for you to get the treatment best for you or get a fair settlement for your injuries.

 

My name is Dr. Sangwoo Mah. I am a local Doctor of Chiropractic with over 16 years of experience in treating car accident patients. I created this website because I have seen too many people go through unnecessary hardship after being involved in a car accident. I am going to give you the information you would need to get through this ordeal as easily as possible. The information on this website will give you the knowledge to make informed decisions, so that you or your family member can recover from your accident as soon as possible. You will learn what to look for in a medical office for the best treatment of your injuries, how to tell if an attorney would fight hard on your behalf, and how to tell if someone unscrupulous is trying to take advantage of you.

Every state has different laws, and the information on this website is specific to the New York State. This valuable information can significantly change how you recover from your accident, both physically and financially. There are many trade secrets on this website that you will have difficulty finding out, unless you work in a medical office or an attorney’s office specializing in car accidents. You will be able to make the best decisions for yourself, instead of relying on people who might not have your best interest as a priority.

Let's get started.

Involved in a Car Accident?

What to know.

Law and Legal Coverages and Protection

Some states have specific laws you should know about.

Medical Treatment

How to get the best medical treatment for you car accident injury.

10 Things You Must Know

10 Things You Must Know to Recover From and When Selecting a Doctor or an Attorney After a Car Accident


Knowledge of your legal and medical rights and benefits 
when you are in a car accident is our expertise.

1. Applying for Medical Benefit After Your Accident

First, you need to activate the medical benefit for treatment after your car accident under the New York State No-Fault law. It doesn’t get activated automatically. The form you need to fill out is called the NF-2 form. Your insurance company will send you one, or you can easily find one online. If you have an attorney, he or she will most likely file it for you. If you do not have an attorney, you must file it yourself. It must be filed within 30 days after the accident to your car insurance company. It is highly advised that you fax or mail it out certified and save the receipt to be certain that your insurance company received it. If your insurance company has no record of receiving it, you will not be able to receive any medical treatment. Even if you were not hurt in the car accident, it is a good idea that you file an NF-2 form just in case. If you file the NF-2 form and don’t need any medical treatment, there is no harm done. But if you don’t file the NF-2 form and you do need the medical treatment after 30 days, you won’t have any medical coverage!

2. Which Insurance Pays for My Treatment?

If you were injured in a car accident and you weren’t at fault, you might feel that your insurance should not be paying for your own treatment. New York is a No-Fault state. This means that no matter who’s at fault in a car accident, the medical treatment is always covered by the vehicle that the person was riding in. Every state has its own laws regarding who pays for what and how in a car accident, but this is how the law is in New York. If you weren’t at fault, your insurance premium should not go up. Notice I said “should”, not “will”. Also, if you were injured in a car accident, you cannot use your regular health insurance for the treatment of your injuries from the car accident. There are specific clauses in your health insurance that excludes the treatment of car accident injuries. If you use your regular health insurance for the treatment of your car accident injuries, your health insurance company has the right to ask for the payment back, usually from you.

3. Time is Running Out

You might think since you were injured in a car accident, the payment for your medical treatment should be covered by your car insurance company until you fully recover from your injuries. Once you are injured in a car accident and the treatment has begun, time is running out. Your car insurance company will eventually request you to see a doctor, hired by a company that specializes in Independent Medical Exams, or IME’s. The IME doctor’s goal is to evaluate you as independently as possible through a physical examination and determine whether you need further treatment or not. If the IME doctor feels that you have recovered from your car accident, your medical benefits for treatment will be terminated.

From my experience, I can tell you that most IME doctors do a very brief physical examination because they are overbooked. They do not have the time to physically perform a detailed examination. And since they cannot perform a detailed examination, the majority of injuries that the people have are overlooked. The result is that most of the people are being told that they have nothing wrong with them and their medical benefits are terminated after the IME. Being subjected to an IME is part of every car insurance policy in New York and you can’t refuse to go to one, although you can usually reschedule it. If you miss your IME appointment, your medical benefits will be terminated immediately.

Lately IME’s are being scheduled way too early, sometimes as early as 2 or 3 weeks after an accident. A mildly injured person may recover from an accident after a few weeks. However, if you are even moderately injured, it may take you many months or even up to a year before being fully recovered from your injuries. Too many IME doctors don’t have the time to distinguish between the mildly and seriously injured patients. My experience has been that 9 out of 10 patients’ medical benefits will be terminated after an IME, regardless of the condition of the patient.

This is a big problem in the No-Fault insurance system in New York. If you are seriously injured after a car accident, premature termination of medical benefits poses a real threat to your health. Unfortunately, after an IME denial, it is very difficult to reactivate the No-Fault medical benefits. Therefore it is essential that all medical service that your doctor determines be medically necessary for you to be completed before you present to an IME. There is a good chance you will not be able to undergo any medical services after an IME.

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4. THE ROLE OF THE DOCTOR IN YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CASE

Going to the right medical office and choosing the right doctor to take charge of your treatment after your car accident is very important. Every doctor you go to see after your car accident potentially has a huge positive or negative influence on your personal injury case. How the doctor documents your injuries and orders the diagnostic tests have tremendous impact on your case. The treatment or procedures you undergo ordered by the doctor also play a vital role. A careless doctor who does insufficient physical exam and misses your injuries will make you appear less injured than you truly are. A doctor who exaggerates your injuries will make you seem like you are faking your injuries and make you seem less credible. Therefore it is important to choose a doctor who finds your injuries through a detailed physical exam, and documents them correctly. The doctor you choose can have a very significant influence on your personal injury case, either negatively or positively.

5. HOW CAN I TELL THE DOCTOR IS KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT CAR ACCIDENT INJURY TREATMENT?

Ask the Doctor how many car accident patients he/she sees in a day. If the Doctor rarely sees a car accident patient, chances are he/she is not knowledgeable about how to manage car accident injuries. Whether you choose a Medical Doctor or a Doctor of Chiropractic or a Doctor of Osteopathy to be the primary doctor overseeing your entire treatment, there will be some differences in how they handle your treatment. But all of them should be trying to get you better as fast as possible. However, not all of doctors are great with medical documentation or car accident injury treatment management. In fact, most doctors are bad at them.  Doctors do not get any kind of training on how to document injuries in automobile insurance company’s standard during their training. They either learn from trial and error or they get specialized post-graduate training. You would be better served with doctors who are knowledgeable about car accident injury case management.

One quick way to tell if your doctor is familiar with car accident injury documentation is to ask about his/her knowledge on Colossus. Colossus is a computer program that the automobile insurance industry uses to evaluate car accidents claims. Insurance companies use it or one of its variants to calculate the damages from an accident, just as when they use another computer program to calculate your car insurance premium. You probably remember telling them your social security number, birth date, occupation, marital status, address, and other personal information when getting your quote. Colossus works much the same way but it looks at your medical records.  If your doctor does not know the Colossus standard in medical documentation, your settlement offer can be up to 80% lower. I am proud to say I had extensive post-graduate training on car accident injury management and the Colossus documentation standard.

6. Office Policy After IME Denial

Ask the Doctor what’s the office policy after the IME denial of medical benefits for the car accident patients. The office may discharge the patient or switch billing to the patient’s health insurance. Or the office may ask the patient to pay for his/her care from then on. The office might also ask the patient’s attorney to sign a lien against your personal injury settlement. All of the above choices are less than desirable for the patient.

Using the patient’s own health insurance immediately after the IME denial means the medical payment from the health insurance will be taken out from the patient’s personal injury settlement. Remember that your health insurance is not supposed to pay for the treatment of your car accident injuries? Your health insurance company has every right to ask for the money back. It is a similar case with a lien. A lien against your personal injury case for the medical treatment you receive after the IME denial means that the cost of medical treatment will be taken out from your personal injury settlement. Discharging the patient prematurely is harmful to the patient’s recovery, and asking the patient to pay for his/her care can be financially burdensome. Of course, not having enough treatment can seriously reduce or most likely completely wipe out the personal injury settlement.

All of the above scenario can be avoided if the Doctor decides to arbitrate or litigate the medical bills. After the IME denial, the Doctor can continue to treat the patient. The Doctor won’t get paid while the treatment is going on, but if the medical documentation clearly indicates why the patient needs the care after the IME denial, the Doctor will most likely win the arbitration/litigation and get paid eventually. The best part of this process is that arbitration/litigation has nothing to do with the patient’s personal injury case and the medical payment will not come out of the patient’s personal injury settlement. A Doctor who is experienced with car accident injury treatment usually arbitrates or litigates the unpaid medical bills, and tries not to get the bills paid through a lien or the patient’s health insurance. It’s a win-win situation for both the Doctor and the patient.

7. SHOULD I FIND A DOCTOR OR ATTORNEY FIRST AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT?

Since I am a healthcare professional, I admit a bias here, but I have a good reasoning. Many people after a car accident are afraid they might get sued or get hit with a large bill and start looking for an attorney immediately. It could take days to weeks before they find an attorney. If they were injured and was not getting treated during that time, their injuries would keep on progressing and get much worse. An injury with treatment that began late takes much longer to recover than an injury that was treated immediately after a car accident.  How quickly the treatment begins has a huge implication on the successful clinical outcome of car accident injuries. Therefore my recommendation is to find a medical office and start getting treated immediately after a car accident. Any treatment is better than no treatment after a car accident. You can easily tell if a medical office is doing quality treatment after a few visits. If you feel that the treatment you are receiving is not helping, you can easily switch to another medical office. But you must act quickly before your car accident medical benefit is terminated.

On the contrary to medical offices, you can’t tell if the attorney you have retained will be good or not good for you in a short amount of time. It takes months to years before a car accident case settles. Your best guess at how hard the attorney will fight for you is reflective of his/her reputation, consistency of recommendation from previous clients, and professionalism. Almost every attorney has a few cases with large settlement awards that they use in advertising. For an outcome like that to occur, there needs to be a set of perfect circumstances. There needs to be established liability, serious injury, extensive and aggressive treatment, long-term disability, and a large insurance policy limit. Almost all car accident cases do not have all of these criteria met and do not command 7-figure settlement. Therefore previous settlement values of a few large cases do not necessarily mean anything to your own case. However, it is reassuring that if your case indeed do meet those criteria, your attorney can handle it competently. Since hiring an attorney requires careful consideration and there is no negative effect of taking a couple of weeks to decide on which attorney to hire, my recommendation is to begin treatment first at a medical office and continue your search on finding a great attorney.

8. How Can I Tell an Attorney is Good?

I get this particular question quite frequently at our office. I have worked with many attorneys over the years and have worked with both excellent and mediocre attorneys. And my opinion is that you can expect the outcome of settlement to reflect the level of professionalism and attention to detail the attorney shows throughout the progression of your case. Let me be more specific.

  • Large amount of work in an attorney’s office is paperwork and it is mostly done by paralegals. The attorney’s office should have a system in place that tracks what needs to be done and when. It should be very well-organized. The best indicator of how well an office is organized is how soon they return your phone calls and emails. If you can’t get your phone calls or emails replied in a timely matter, you can bet the office is disorganized and they will not be handling your case in a timely manner. But please do not overburden your attorney with trivial questions. Your attorney needs to be working, not answering phone calls all day long about trivial matters. However, if you have a legitimate concern and you are not abusive with your inquiry, and your attorney still fails to return your calls repeatedly, I would have a serious reservation about letting someone like that handle my case.

  • If your attorney is not professional towards you when you talk to him/her, that is a huge red flag. I have known attorneys who yell or curse at their clients when the clients question the attorney’s actions. Usually when an attorney is abusive or disrespectful to a client, usually that is to hide something that he/she has done wrongly or illegally against you. Some attorneys refuse to show the settlement check, settle the case without the client’s consent, and outright steal from their clients, hoping that they would never find out. If your attorney yells at you or disrespects you, you should seriously think about hiring a different attorney. Remember that you are your attorney’s customer, and you will be paying them at least 1/3 of your settlement when your case is done. Of course, there is a chance that you are an unreasonably demanding client and you have made your attorney lose his/her temper. But if you believe your attorney is not behaving professionally toward you, and you did not instigate this behavior, the chances are your attorney will be unprofessional in his/her work also and your settlement will most likely suffer.

  • Try to find a few past clients of the attorney you are considering and ask them about their experiences. Although no professionals have 100% satisfaction rate, you should see a pattern fairly quickly. If an attorney has very satisfied and very unsatisfied clients in similar numbers, that shows inconsistency. If an attorney has mostly satisfied clients, that is a great sign. Talk to a few people about the attorney you are considering and see what the majority of their opinions are. Of course, if you can’t find enough people to confirm your choice, you can always ask the insiders of the industry. Someone like me who have worked with a large number of attorneys in the past can give a valuable recommendation based on past experiences. However, it is important that the recommendation comes with your best interest in mind.

9. A WARNING ABOUT SOLICITATION

Fraud is a real problem in car accident cases, legally and medically, especially in large cities. If you have been approached by individuals who say they can introduce you to a medical office and a lawyer and take care of everything for you, they are usually “runners”. They refer new car accident victims to lawyers and medical offices and receive substantial kickback from them, usually up to thousands of dollars. This is completely illegal but since there are so many of these runners, it is impossible to stop this scam from happening completely.

They might also suggest you go to a specific car repair shop they know well. They will always say they are going to introduce you to the “best” of the professionals. In reality, these professionals are often the “worst” of the profession, who can’t get new clients from word-of-mouth referral or advertising. When you think about it, professionals offering great services wouldn’t need to pay for their customers. Their services should speak for themselves. How these professionals can afford to pay these runners large sums of kickback is simple. It comes from YOU! These doctors charge for unrendered medical services, the lawyers make up fake invoices, and the car repair shops inflict additional damage to the customer’s vehicle to get a higher estimate. It is quite easy for these unscrupulous professionals to recover their payment to the runner, from you. These professionals are only interested in recouping their “investment” in you, then delivering the most minimum service for the least cost possible to maximize their profit. You can’t seriously expect them to deliver the best medical treatment with the latest technology, repair your vehicle to the original state with the original manufacturer’s parts, or fight hard to get you the maximum settlement for your injuries.

An obvious sign that you are about to be “sold” would be that the person who is making suggestions where you should go is very insistent, and doesn’t give you a choice of professionals. If the person isn’t your family or friend, why would he/she suddenly have such an interest in your well-being? For example, would the same person have the same amount of interest in where you should go for a routine blood test? The person might even offer to pay you to go to his/her designated professionals – but now you know, in the end, you would end up paying for the runner’s fee yourself without you knowing, and the money you are getting upfront would be actually coming out of your future settlement. Not to mention you would have committed a felony by accepting the bribe. It’s simply not worth the risk and you would end up getting scammed at the end.

There is also a 30 day No-Solicitation Law in New York. That means no attorney or a representative of an attorney can contact you within the first 30 days after a car accident, without you requesting to be contacted by them first. If an attorney and/or a representative of an attorney contacted you within 30 days after a car accident and you have not asked to be contacted by them first, they have just broken the No-Solicitation Law. They usually get the recent car accident victims’ information illegally on the black market. I would suggest you to steer clear of these individuals. The best way to select a professional is through referral from a trusted source or advertising.

Remember, you have the sole right to choose any healthcare and legal professional to help you, and no one has the authority to force you go to a specific professional.

10. Treatment Options

Now that we have gotten the insurance and legal stuff out of the way, let’s discuss the treatment options you have. Most common complaints after a car accident are neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, and headache. The following treatment options are effective for most of car accident injuries.

Physical Therapy is the first treatment usually recommended for the car accident patient. It involves using various therapeutic machines to reduce pain, inflammation, and spasm. Later on a physical therapist may have you do exercises to make your injured body part stronger. It is by far the most popular treatment of choice for most car accident patients.

Chiropractic is usually recommended for the car accident patient who has a neck or back injury. Although a Doctor of Chiropractic usually focuses on neck or back injuries, he/she also utilizes most of the treatment technique a physical therapist uses. In fact, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment can be quite similar sometimes, but there is much greater emphasis on exercise in Physical Therapy and there is much greater emphasis on spinal manipulation in Chiropractic. Therefore being treated with Physical Therapy and Chiropractic at the same time is ideal for a car accident patient, since these two treatments compliment each other very well.

Acupuncture is often performed on car accident patients also. It can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with acute traumatic injuries. It is also useful in controlling pain with chronic conditions. It is very safe and risk of contamination is zero, as all needles used are disposable. Needles thinner than human hair limits discomfort, and lately acupuncture with electric stimulation – for even greater effect – has become popular.

Massage is also recommended for car accident patients to reduce muscle spasm and joint stiffness associated with car accident injuries. Although receiving massage on a swollen body part is not a good idea, when there are spasm and knots, sometimes hands-on massage is the only thing that can get rid of them. Our patients love getting massages as part of their treatment.

Spinal Decompression is performed on patients with neck and low back pain. It is primary used to reduce pressure on the disc and the nerves. It is an effective treatment for disc herniation, sciatica, and radiating pain in arms and legs. There are numerous variations of Spinal Decompression machines but they all work on the basic concept of long-axis distraction of the spine. It stretches the vertebra apart from each other, giving more space for the nerves that pass between them. It can be a little uncomfortable because the patient has to be in a tight harness, but most patients tolerate the treatment quite easily.

Therapeutic Laser has gained popularity among healthcare providers lately. Therapeutic Laser is used to accelerate healing and reduce inflammation in injuries. It is painless, safe, and effective for recent injuries such as motor vehicle accident injuries, and it is also excellent for post-surgical recovery and wound healing. However, the effectiveness of therapeutic laser is largely dependent on the power of machines being used. There are completely ineffective units no different than a pen light to very powerful units capable of reducing recovery time by half. For a therapeutic laser to be clinically significant, it should have more than 10 watts of power. Even more advanced therapeutic lasers called Super-Pulsed Lasers can reach deeper body parts such as disc and bone that conventional lasers can’t. At our office we use a super-pulsed laser with 250 watts of power, which is currently the most powerful therapeutic laser available in the world.

If the above conservative treatments haven't worked well enough for you, you might consider more aggressive treatment options.

Epidural Spinal Injection and Joint Injection of anti-inflammatory medication to painful area can bring significant pain relief rapidly. If first injection of the medication does not bring enough relief, second injection may be administered. Usually by the second injection, pain is reduced enough for another round of conservative therapy, which will be aimed to fix the problem. Pain medication injections are safe and there is very little recovery time. However, if you are diabetic, you are at risk of temporarily elevated sugar levels.

For neck and back pain caused by disc herniation that is unresponsive to epidural injection, Percutaneous Discectomy may be considered. It is an outpatient surgical procedure that is very safe and requires no hospitalization. Post-surgical pain is minor, and usually it is not even enough to warrant taking pain medication. Patients can be back to normal activities within a couple of days. We’ve had great success with this procedure in our office when combined with spinal decompression and laser therapy.

For shoulder and knee pain that unresponsive to conservative care and joint injection, Orthopedic Surgery may be considered. Although orthopedic surgery is safe and effective, there is usually recovery period lasting a few weeks to months. Post-surgical pain is usually minor but it can be intense and can last a few weeks. But it is certainly tolerable with pain medication. Most patients tell us that the post-surgical pain is way less than what they were expecting.

If you do not recover easily from your injury and it becomes chronic, you may be a candidate for Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy. It has been used to treat chronic muscle and joint related injuries with great success in Europe for many years. It is just starting to become available in the US. It uses mechanically generated shockwaves faster than the speed of sound to break apart fibrous adhesion, scar tissue, and muscle spasm. The result is immediate increase in movement and stiffness of joints. There is no recovery period although it usually takes 5 or 6 weekly treatment sessions to have maximum effect.

All of the treatments listed above are available at our practice with the exception of surgeries. Most of our patients do not need to undergo surgery. The reason we offer so many treatment types of treatment is because we see many different types of injuries, from minor acute muscle strain to complicated chronic conditions such as Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. The more treatment options we have at our disposal, the more conditions we can treat effectively. I am proud to say we offer more advanced treatment options than almost any practices specializing in car accident injury treatment in Queens.

Another reason we offer so many treatment options is due to the time limit. As I have stated before, we have limited time to treat you and get you better before your No-Fault medical benefit is terminated by the IME doctors. We do not have the luxury of trying out different types of treatment one at a time until we find the one that works for you. Accurate diagnosis of your injury and deciding on the best treatment for your injury is of the highest priority. At our practice, I personally take as long as I need to take a detailed history and perform a detailed physical examination to make an accurate diagnosis and form a treatment plan. Since we have so many different treatment options at our disposal, we can pick and choose what will be most effective for your particular injury.

Since you most likely won’t have so many different treatment options available to you in one medical office, my advice to you is to seek out different types of treatment if you do not recover from your injury fast enough. No matter what kind of treatment you will be undergoing, you should have an idea if the treatment is effective after about two weeks, and certainly in four weeks.

However, although technology-driven treatment such as laser or shockwave therapy is largely machine-dependent, treatment such as chiropractic or acupuncture is largely provider-dependent. If a particular healthcare provider you have selected doesn’t seem to be providing effective treatment for you, you are certainly within your rights to select another healthcare provider. Most healthcare provider will expect you to pay for your own care if you do not have medical insurance benefits. If you do decide to find a new healthcare provider, you should find one well before your No-Fault medical benefit expires.

Any Questions?

We are here to help.

My experience with chiropractic as a car accident patient inspired me to become a Doctor of Chiropractic. I know firsthand what it is like to be involved in a car accident and the stress, inconvenience, pain and suffering that go with it. I have dedicated my career to helping car accident victims recover from their injuries. You are welcome to email me with any questions you have. If you would like to make an appointment at our office for an evaluation, please call 718-746-4919. I will personally perform a detailed physical examination to get your current clinical status, review all the treatment and testing you had, and find out if there was any missed test, diagnosis or treatment. Then I will give you my recommendation for future care. You have nothing to lose but your pain, and perhaps my recommendation may prove to be valuable in your recovery. I hope to hear from you soon and I hope you feel better.

Yours in health,
Sangwoo Mah, DC, DAAMLP

Sangwoo Mah, DC, DAAMLP

Doctor of Chiropractic
Diplomate, American Academy of Medical Legal Professionals
Certified in MRI Spine Interpretation
Certified in Spinal Biomechanical Engineering






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150-01 Northern Blvd Flushing, NY 11354 150-01 Northern Blvd Flushing, NY 11354
We are on the corner of 150 Street and Northern Blvd. Q15, Q13, Q28 stop in front of the office. Near Q12 route and LIRR Port Washington Branch Muray Hill Station.

Sangwoo Mah, DC, DAAMLP

Doctor of Chiropractic
Diplomate, American Academy of Medical Legal Professionals
Certified in MRI Spine Interpretation
Certified in Spinal Biomechanical Engineering
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(718) 746-4919