Calculating long-term medical expenses is one of the most difficult steps in any personal injury settlement. Estimates that are too low leave families to bear the burden of the injury out of pocket, while defendants fight hard against estimates that are too high. In order to strike a balance, attorneys use a life care plan to predict future medical expenses.
What Is A Life Care Plan?
A life care plan is a thorough examination of a victim’s future medical needs, based on the extent of the injuries, life expectancy, and other factors. Both a personal injury lawyer and the defense seek life care plans from expert medical consultants who perform the estimates and present their findings to the court or the opposition.
Elements Of A Life Care Plan
The plan examines several critical areas that affect the cost of long-term care.
Prescription drug prices in the United States are some of the highest in the world, and victims with long-term injuries may need medication for months or years. The life care plan extrapolates the victim’s current dosages and estimates the total cost of continuing that level of medication for an agreed period of time.
Doctors also estimate the cost of new drugs that may raise the price of treatment, if the new drug becomes the standard of treatment for a particular condition. In addition, doctors adjust prices lower when generic drugs become available.
Diagnostics And Treatment
For a long-term injury, the victim may need follow up doctor’s appointments, testing, and hospital stays. The experts predict the number of tests and the cost of diagnostics based on prevailing treatment theories at the time. Other doctors contribute their analysis of the future of the field, and suggest the potential cost and availability of new treatments in the future. Often, experts will include provisions for mental health services, as well as medical services.
The life care plan must also account for related illnesses or injuries that may arise as complications from the original injury. For example, a spinal cord injury may cause respiratory or bladder problems that are not yet present in the victim.
Aggressive Treatment Options
Cutting-edge medical treatments can greatly improve the quality of life for someone with a long-term injury; however, the cost of these treatments can far exceed the normal cost of treatment.
The medical expert for a personal injury lawyer may recommend aggressive treatment options that are new enough that there is not yet data on the total cost of treatment for a patient. Through the life care plan process, a victim has the right to propose a plan as ambitious as he or she wants, but the defense has the right to dispute the claims.
Victims who lose a part of their body usually receive compensation for a prosthetic device in the settlement. Over time, these therapeutic devices need to be upgraded or replaced to meet the needs of the victim. Devices may also include access ramps and accessible bathtubs.
A personal injury lawyer will include estimates for future replacements, factoring in the rising cost of technology and new developments in prosthetics. This portion of the life care plan is especially important for injured children, who may grow out of their device every few years.
A life care plan is an essential part of the settlement a personal injury lawyer seeks, and requires careful examination and attention to detail to secure fair compensation for victims.