Thursday, January 7, 2010

Medical Expert Testimony

In a recent case that was issued by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Southwest Airlines v WCAB, the Court addressed what constitutes expert medical testimony regarding causation.

In this case, the Claimant’s physician relied solely upon self serving statements by the Claimant regarding a head and neck injury being related to work activities. The doctor did not know of Claimant’s numerous preexisting and prior injuries to his head and neck. The workers’ compensation Judge, nevertheless, awarded benefits.

However, the Commonwealth Court reversed and stated that the basis for the doctor’s testimony was not competent and therefore the doctor’s expert testimony regarding causation was not competent.

This case is indicative of several things including what you must prove in order to win your workers’ compensation case. First, your treating physicians must give an opinion that your injury or condition is related to work activities. Second, that opinion must be competent and have a substantial basis. Usually, the basis for these opinions are the history given by the Claimant, examinations, diagnostic tests and the doctor’s own experience and education.

In the above case, it is apparent that the Claimant’s attorney did not adequately prepare the doctor regarding the issues in the case, specifically the prior injuries. If the Claimant’s attorney had prepared the doctor with the prior facts and the prior medical records and the doctor still had the opinion that the injuries were caused by the work activities then I am sure this case would not have gone up on appeal. This is a teachable moment for practicing Claimant’s attorneys in preparing their cases adequately as well as their medical experts.

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