The simplest answer is it depends. The more complicated answer requires a discussion of all of the different factors it depends on which follows including a rough summary of the applicable Washington and Oregon laws.
The basic guiding principle is, can you prove to a degree of reasonable medical certainty that any future care will be required to address your continuing symptoms? A reasonable medical certainty requires a showing that the future care is “more probably than not” reasonable in amount, necessary as a result of the incident, and related, specifically, to the incident. “More probable than not” could be simplified stated as a 51% probability. So what are some considerations which might help assess whether or not you might be able to meet the burden of proof in your personal injury case?
Your course of care and your treating medical providers. Were you proactive in getting the medical care you needed to address the injuries and symptoms you experienced as a result of the incident that caused your injuries? Did you seek out medical providers and care that helped you identify what conditions and injuries you were dealing with medically and to address what you were dealing with? How well is that documented in the medical records? How supportive are your treating providers in terms of being willing to testify that the incident was the cause of your symptoms and injuries? Are they willing to testify regarding the symptoms you feel you will continue to experience in the future as a result of your incident-related injuries?
Hired experts. If your treating providers did not address your symptoms and injuries relating to the incident completely or adequately identify and document what the underlying conditions or injuries are or were—can your personal injury attorney help you find a qualified expert to review what your treating providers did document and what they did assess in order to fully form the needed opinions? Can this expert examine you to better understand why are you might still be dealing with symptoms and what they may be able to testify to with respect to any future care that may be needed to address your continuing symptoms? Is there an expert qualified to and willing to speak about the probable duration and types of care needed and the probable cost of that care?
Your own testimony and your own medical history. How clearly can you testify that the continuing symptoms you are dealing with specifically relate to the incident? How clearly can you differentiate any similar symptoms you may have dealt with prior to the incident that caused your injuries and brought about your personal injury claims? What do your prior medical records say about any medical conditions or injuries you may have dealt with prior which are pertinent? What do your past and present treating medical providers have to say about what the prior medical records contain?
Non-expert testimony (yours and your family's and friends') of subjective symptoms persisting from time of the injury through trial would permit the trier of fact (the judge or the jury) to make a reasonable inference that future pain, disabilities and damages will occur and expert medical testimony of such future damage may not be necessary. Bitzan v. Parisi, 88 Wn.2d 116, 122, 558 P.2d 775 (1977).
The evidence, generally. Whether it's the records, your treating providers, the experts or you—how compelling and believable is the evidence? Will a jury find it compelling enough to award damages according to your theory of damages presented? Are there potential issues with the evidence or proof which need to be discussed and accounted for when looking at the risk and cost-benefit analyses?
All of these and more questions would need to be answered in order to truly know what the likelihood would be of proving future symptoms and needed future medical care in a personal injury case.
A personal injury attorney can help you go through the above considerations and more and help you assess whether or not you might be able to meet the burden of proof in your personal injury case. Please call (360) 695-4244 to chat with one of our attorneys today about your case.