Previously, when a lumbar MRI came back positive for a bulging disc or a flexion / extension x-ray in the cervical spine showed some degree of instability, a policy limit settlement was not impossible to achieve.  After all, those structural problems are deemed lifelong impairments, right?  

Well, the answer may be more complex that you might first think, and scenario based. Yes, those structural damages are certainly objective in nature and help educate both the plaintiff and defense to the degree of injury that was caused. However, how does the documented objective injury affect someone’s daily life? How does the lumbar disc herniation warrant a policy limits settlement?

In personal injury cases today, having a positive lumbar bulging disc isn’t necessarily the icing on the cake to ensure a large settlement. In fact, research has shown that 30% of individuals in their 30’s had a bulging disc, 60% of those in their 50’s had bulging discs, and 84% of those in their 80’s had a bulging disc. Overall, 40-50% of people have some degree of positive findings on their MRI. 

The research shows that while MRI’s certainly have their place in diagnosing spinal pathology, they fall short in correlating what is found on your MRI and if those positive findings are pain generators; not to mention how those findings will affect the clients’ livelihood. A very high percentage of lower back pain is non-specific – meaning it is difficult to pinpoint the exact pain generator. Typically, pain is derived from a multitude of different factors. 

So, you might be asking, “if positive findings on diagnostic tests are no longer the ace in the hole for a slam dunk settlement, what is?” The answer is a combination of an excellent read or interpretation of the MRI as well as a Functional Capacity Evaluation to help the opposing side understand how the lumbar pathological condition affects their client’s daily life – more specifically, their ability to perform vocational duties, ADL’s, and leisure activities. 

Without the Functional Capacity Evaluation to help objectively showcase HOW the pathological conditions in their lower back are affecting their lives, the insurance company will always argue that many people live perfectly normal and pain-free lives while having positive spinal MRI findings. 

At Injury Reporting Consultants, we specialize in providing expert reports such as functional capacity evaluations, vocational and earning capacity evaluations, medical cost projections, and life care plans that will support your legal documents in order to help obtain a swift and fair settlement.      

Dr. Brad Poppie has over 20 years of personal injury experience not only as a treating doctor, but as an expert witness in trial.  If you have a client that you would like to discuss their need for an expert report, please contact directly at 720-982-2000 or email: