Expert Reports are only as VALID as the expert writing them

Expert Reports are only as VALID as the expert writing them

When someone sustains an injury from a car accident and is seeking an attorney for representation, they will typically go through some degree of a screening process to determine what law firm or attorney is right for them and their case.

This process may include asking friends or family for a referral or by googling or calling around to various firms in their area to determine the right one for the job. The injured person may even choose based on whoever’s advertisements have imprinted the most on their brain.

The same screening process should hold true for attorneys looking to hire an expert witness to help support their case. Let’s say an attorney is looking to hire a life care planner to determine the future medical / rehabilitative care and associated costs for their clients’ case.

The attorney may call colleagues to ask who they use or may just go online and do a search. They may even hire the company who puts up the most advertising dollars to make an impact and determine that they are the best.

I’ve been a personal injury doctor for over 20 years and have heard from both clients and attorneys the horror stories, headaches, mishaps, and nightmares these individuals have experienced from hiring expert witnesses that were unqualified, insufficient or unprofessional.

From an attorney / expert relationship point of view, the most common complaint I have heard is, “the experts they hire don’t perform well on the stand”…and as we know, an expert’s report is only as good as their ability to defend it to the opposing counsel and win the hearts of the jury.

The Frye Test and Daubert Decision, Rule 702, and Rule 26 are the defining standards for admissible scientific evidence in trial from an expert’s testimony and their reports. If the criteria and rules of evidence set forth by these rulings are not met, the court may not allow acceptance of your expert to testify on behalf of your client. Make sure you choose your experts wisely to avoid this issue at trial.

I think a more common issue, however, is if the expert is unable to fully educate the jury on the methodology behind their report, the conclusions that they came to, and how those conclusions affect the livelihood of the client. If this happens, the jury will often discredit the expert and disregard their report or their testimony which could prove to be catastrophic to your case.

Over the last two decades, I have testified for numerous cases both as a treating doctor and an expert. Understanding what evidence is admissible in trial and how to portray that evidence to the jury is imperative, and has become a personal commitment to deliver highly qualified and understandable reports to help effectively educate the jury.

The biggest mistake a life care planner can make that is death to their report

The biggest mistake a life care planner can make that is death to their report

Throughout my career, I have reviewed many life care plans, medical cost projections, and future needs assessments. The conclusion that I have come to is that the majority of them do not have up-to-date future medical recommendations which lowers the validity of the overall report.  

According to Life Care Planning methodology, medical records that are over 6 months are considered archaic and therefore not a true representation as to how the client is presenting at present day.  When those older medical records are utilized in a report, not only does this equate to inaccurate future medical costs but also decreases the credibility of the life care planner who wrote the report.

It is imperative that the report contain the most updated information that is available.  This is why attorneys need to get the life care planner involved in the case well before disclosures are due.  

A properly trained life care planner can help you guide your case along to make sure you understand where the client is in their treatment and what treating physicians/rehabilitation professionals are working with the client in order for those providers to give updated and accurate information that is essential for a valid report.  

Here is an example.  Many times, clients slip through the cracks and don’t necessarily communicate with attorneys what treatment they are receiving and who is providing it. Maybe the attorney thought that they had completed a series of facet joint injections but in all reality, the client never went to get them in the first place. 

 Let’s say that your client is scheduled for their first cervical medial branch block in two weeks and disclosures are due in one month.  There is no way the treating physician administering the blocks will be able to opine on future injections including facet injections and/or radiofrequency ablation procedures due to inadequate time to see how the client will respond to the first round of injections.  This is where a skilled life care planner can help communicate these issues with the attorney.

By getting the life care planner involved early on, they can help make sure the records are up to date and inform the attorney where the client is in treatment. After all, the validity of their life care plan is based on the treating practitioners’ future care recommendations and if the life care planner is not on the ball in regards to getting those recommendations, the report is not valid. 

Set your case up for success and reach out to a skilled, qualified, doctor life care planner that can ensure that the proper updated recommendations are utilized in order to create a valid report that both plaintiff and defense attorneys can use as a method to a swift and fair settlement.

Dr. Brad Poppie has over 20 years of personal injury experience providing care as a treating doctor, coordinating rehabilitative case management, and expert trial testimony services.  If you have a client that you would like to discuss their need for an expert report, please contact me directly at 720-982-2000 or email me at: brad@injuryreportingconsultants.com

The “RIGHT” life care planner can make or break your personal injury case

The “RIGHT” life care planner can make or break your personal injury case

Have you ever faced the unfortunate situation where your “trusted” life care planner constructs a future needs report for your client only for you to realize that their report was not tailored toward the nuances of a personal injury case?

This can be devastating to your case as you’ve just invested thousands of dollars, for its value to be diminished or even dismissed as irrelevant.

We see this happen all too often in personal injury cases due to the simple misconception that all life care planners are created equal. While all life care planners are indeed certified, many are not familiar or trained in personal injury specific life care plans and instead work primarily in elder care cases, where they develop a strategy that helps define a senior’s wishes and assists caregivers / family in handling the physical, personal, and financial affairs of their aging process. This type of life care plan is MUCH different than a custom life care plan tailored towards your client who has impairments and disabilities that they sustained in an automobile accident.

If you think about it, you wouldn’t hire a general surgeon to perform an ACL reconstruction surgery on your knee, it’s much wiser to hire a “knee-specific” orthopedic surgeon that works on knees on a daily basis.

The same holds true with life care plans. Personal injury tailored life care planners have a very good understanding of how to cost out injury / trauma specific treatments – whether those be physical therapy, medial branch blocks, radiofrequency ablation procedures, orthopedic surgery; etc. Costing out such therapies / procedures is a sub-specialty in and of itself that takes an expert to not only accurately predict future impairments and disabilities but also to put the correct price tag on those recommendations. I’ve seen many life care planners struggle with understanding how to do this job accurately. Inaccurate life care plans are not taken seriously and set that life care planner up to be dismissed as an expert in your case.

Don’t settle for a “general” life care planner for your cases. Hire an expert personal injury specific life care planner that will help educate plaintiff / defense counsel, and the insurance company. At Injury Reporting Consultants, we specialize in expert reports specifically for personal injury cases such as functional capacity evaluations, vocational and earning capacity evaluations, medical cost projections, and life care plans that effectively communicate to all parties’ the client’s future needs in an accurate and well thought out manner. We believe that a well-crafted life care plan utilizes effective communication and effective communication is key to solving problems.

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: brad@injuryreportingconsultants.com

Understanding Complex Cases

Understanding Complex Cases

If you’re in the personal injury law world, you’re probably well aware of the many complexities a personal injury case can present. When preparing these cases for an insurance company to evaluate, it’s common to be thrown a curveball or two along the way. I often hear from a lot of attorneys spending late nights trying to work through these difficulties and navigate the intricacies of their cases. Here are a few common potential case killers.

  1. Pre-existing conditions: When clients have pre-existing condition(s), you can generally expect that they’ll have an impact on how an insurance company views the case. Insurance companies will want to analyze whether the client’s current state, impairments, and disabilities are in fact caused by the collision versus something that happened in the past.
  2. Gaps in treatment: It’s very common for clients to stray from a treating practitioner’s treatment plan, recommended frequency or treatment duration. This could be the result of one of life’s many complexities, but the insurance company views this as evidence that the client is not hurt due to their lack of compliance.
  3. Prior felonies / incarceration: From time to time this sensitive topic arises within a handful of cases. Many times, embarrassed clients leave past legal disputes out of an attorney’s initial intake form. When this happens, it can be surprising to the plaintiff attorney when opposing counsel brings this to their attention late in the litigation process.

These are only a few of many challenges that can complicate a personal injury case.

I’ve often been asked to produce an expert report and have discovered these issues as well as many others including poor documentation, inadequate communication, case management issues; etc.

When things go awry during the discovery process, the question for an attorney becomes, “What tools do I have accessible to help navigate these roadblocks?” The answer is consulting with the experts to help you along the way.

IRC is here to help you fully understand your case and put your mind at ease knowing that your damages reports are valid and objectively reliable in order to help settle your case in a timely manner.

As a treating doctor specializing in personal injury for over 20 years, I understand the pain-points your case can face and am here to help take the burden off of your shoulders, build out your damages reports and help you fully understand the complexities of your case.

As injury experts, you can trust us to take the wheel and help make your next personal injury case a smooth one.

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 me directly at 720-982-2000 or email me at: brad@injuryreportingconsultants.com

Sincerely,

Dr. Brad Poppie, DPT, CLCP, CFCE, CSCS  
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Life Care Planner
Medical Cost Projection Specialist 
Certified Functional Capacity Evaluator
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Are positive imaging results alone enough to get the settlement you need?

Are positive imaging results alone enough to get the settlement you need?

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: brad@injuryreportingconsultants.com

Dos and don’ts for creating a team of forensic experts for personal injury cases

Dos and don’ts for creating a team of forensic experts for personal injury cases

Today, more than ever, building a great team of experts is paramount to successfully obtaining a fair settlement. The old school mentality of going it alone  is no longer an adequate course of action due to the fast-paced nature and evolution of how personal injury cases are evaluated by insurance companies.

Attorneys working today must understand that expanding their reach and collaborating with other professionals will not only help them avoid roadblocks – but also streamline their case.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for building capacity through collaboration with forensic experts while building a solid case:

DO create a stellar team made up of  legal, medical, and rehabilitative experts. This helps to provide a well-rounded and solid approach when dealing with the complex injuries that your firm works with

DO develop this “A-team” of experts early in the legal process and work together to develop a clear timeline of needs and deliverables so that an informative and professional damages package can be submitted to the insurance company on time.

DON’T wait until the last minute or when disclosures are due to get your “A-team” working. By waiting, crucial medical/rehabilitative recommendations may not be assessed due to a collapsed timeline as your experts scramble to provide correct essential information pertaining to your client.

And lastly, DO ask questions! Experts, like us, are here to help. If you have a client whose case isn’t straightforward or you’re needing to provide more objective evidence of injury, please don’t hesitate to call.

If you’re interested in creating an “A-Team,”  we are here to provide the medical and rehabilitative guidance that will help you steer your team and case to success

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.