Medical-legal consulting is a great way to use your medical training in a non-clinical field that helps people. Physicians all over the country are now doing medical-legal consulting as a rewarding part-time gig.
One service out of many we provide is to give our opinions regarding the causation of traumatic injuries. Some attorneys ask us to provide opinion letters regarding a particular injury caused in a work-related situation, a personal injury case, or other circumstances.
It’s important to note that we act as medical consultants in legal cases, and we do act not as medical experts. We are consulting pre-litigation/pre-trial on those approximately nine of ten cases that settle out of court and never go to trial. As medical consultants, we answer any medical question in a case and back our opinions with evidence from the medical literature. Our job is to help the attorney to a successful settlement of the case. Of course, for cases that go to trial, attorneys will need medical experts in every area of injury. We often assist the attorney in finding those experts.
It’s also important to understand that any physician in any specialty can learn to do this kind of consulting.
I recently had a case of a 29-year-old man who suffered substantial work-related cervical injuries due to a cumulative trauma disorder. I was asked to address the question of possible on-the-job repetitive movement leading to the client sustaining ruptured cervical discs and associated symptoms with functional loss.
The client worked as an administrative assistant for two years for his employer before being given the job of removing old file boxes.
The client was given the job of removing heavy boxes filled with old files from filing shelves. There were several shelves filled with heavy boxes of files. Many of the file boxes were above the client’s head, and he removed the boxes by first balancing a box on his head and then getting the box down on a table. From there, the client put each box on the floor before moving the boxes using a dolly to another area of the office for shredding and disposal. It took the client several days to remove all the boxes.
Almost immediately after the client finished moving the boxes, he began to experience neck pain with radiation to both arms with associated numbness, tingling, and weakness in his thumbs and first and index fingers bilaterally.
Subsequent cervical MRI showed C5-6 and C6-7 disc herniations. The client eventually needed a surgical intervention after conservative treatment was unsuccessful.
To a reasonable degree of medical probability, it was my opinion that the long hours the client spent typing, in addition to the poor ergonomics of his workstation, contributed to him being pre-disposed to a cervical injury sustained after lifting heavy boxes for several days. I was able to back up my opinions with evidence from the medical literature. Here’s the report of the case.
Armin Feldman is a medical consultant to attorneys.
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