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What does "You're not a doctor!" really mean?

Updated: Apr 13

One of the most common objections from plaintiff attorneys is "You're not a doctor!". This objection is primarily used to shut down any discussion about treatment that the claimant received. Adjusters are used to hearing this objection whenever they try to address perceived issues with treatment.


For the most part, this tactic is successful. In fact, some adjusters and many defense attorneys believe that questions about treatment can only be broached when expert witnesses are deposed. This is wrong and prolongs the life of the case. If you find yourself dissuaded by this plaintiff attorney tactic, please read on.


What's really going on here?


To understand how to deal with this type of objection, you must consider what this objection really means. As a first step, let's consider what it does NOT mean. This objection does not mean that you are not allowed to have an opinion or to express that opinion. This is certainly the impression that plaintiff's counsel would like you to have. There is nothing that bars you from making a point.


Plaintiff's counsel also does not mean that there is no sense discussing the facts because they are settled and incontrovertible. If plaintiff's counsel believed that they had the facts on their side, not only would they not attempt to block you from referencing them, they would be referencing the fact themselves.


So why would they want to avoid medical topics? The answer is simple, because they lack the knowledge and the evidence to respond. They are made uncomfortable about discussions of the facts because they are not in a position to use the facts to their benefit. So, they change the subject.


To fully appreciate this tactic, consider what would happen if you attempted to raise a question about the justification for the use of CT scans in an emergency room AND the plaintiff attorney knew the guidelines for emergency use of CTs and knew the facts supported their use. Do you think they would respond by saying "You're not a doctor, let's move on?" Or do you think they would use it as an opportunity to point out why you were very wrong in your position?


How do I get by this objection?


So how should you respond? Unfortunately, far too many adjusters and defense counsel back down. By deflecting or dismissing your point, critical questions on which the resolution of the case will rest remain unresolved. Three things can happen. 1) You take the bait and pay more than the case is worth. 2) The case enters a stalemate and goes nowhere or into suit. 3) You pursue the issue by putting the responsibility on plaintiff's counsel to explain their inability or refusal to prove their case.


Here are a few practical responses to stand your ground and get the facts on the table:


  1. Are you saying that you believe the records answer my question? Or that you don't know?

  2. It is not relevant whether I am a doctor. What is relevant is how the doctor in this case will answer the question using the records you sent. If you are saying that you believe the doctor has answered my question, please show me where so we can move on.

  3. I am confused why you sent me all these records. You presented them (presumably) as evidence for your client's claims. Those claims include [name the claim such as "the injection was medically justified"]. Are you now saying you do not know whether they support that claim? Or that they do not support that claim, but you believe proof will be presented later? If so, what are you asking me to place a value on?


The responses above move the case back to the facts and, more importantly, require the plaintiff attorney to clarify whether the records they have presented as evidence are really proof of the plaintiff's claims.


But the doctor's just going to say.....


There is a tendency to think that trying to pin the doctor down will be impossible. They will just talk their way around any questions. In other words, it does not really matter what questions we ask, the doctor will be able to simply say they are the expert and know better.


This is also wrong. Medical providers have to testify from the documentation they gathered when the patient was being examined. While they can talk about how experienced and knowledgeable they are, they ultimately have to address the case of a specific plaintiff using the records for that plaintiff. So we come full circle and back to the question...."What can the doctor say using their records?" To get more insight into the distinction between "expertise" and "evidence", you will find the following video helpful.




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