Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Direct Exam of Medical Witness in Arizona Workers Compensation Claim

Most Arizona work comp litigation requires expert testimony from a medical expert as part of the injured worker's burden of proof.  Asking questions of the medical expert is part science, part art.  The following is a very basic outline that I follow when questioning my own medical expert:

1.  Professional qualifications (licensed to practice in Arizona, field of specialty, board certification)
2.  Scope of treatment (treating doctor or IME)
3.  What records did you review as a basis for your opinions?
4.  What was your understanding of the mechanism of injury (how accident happened)
5.  What treatment had the injured worker undergone prior to you seeing him/her?
6.  What are the applicant's subjective complaints?
7.  You conducted a physical exam?  What significant findings? 
8.  Did you review any diagnostic studies (MRI, x-rays, EMG, etc)?
9.  Based on the mechanism of injury, the applicant's subjective complaints, the objective findings on physical exam and diagnostics, were you able to reach a diagnosis related to the industrial injury?
10.  Do you feel the applicant's condition is medically stationary or is there further active care that could reasonably be expected to improve his/her condition?
11.  Do you feel he/she has sustained a permanent impairment under the Sixth Edition of the AMA Guides or is it too early to tell pending further care?
12.  Are there additional diagnostic tests that are necessary?
13.  What work restrictions would you impose?
*Were you able to identify a new, additional or previously undiscovered condition causally related to the industrial injury? 
*Did you notice any symptoms magnification, Waddell's signs, or other red flags? 

This is, of course, a very crude outline and needs to be adjusted according to the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

Chad T. Snow is an attorney with Snow, Carpio, and Weekley who has done over 5,000 hearings at the Industrial Commission of Arizona.  He has offices in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona and can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000. 

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