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Workers’ Compensation and the Use of Medical Experts

Generally employers are not able to avoid or minimize workers’ compensation liability based on grounds that they are not at fault.  This means that some of the most hotly disputed factual issues in workers’ compensation cases include the extent, severity, and permanence of the injury giving rise to the claim.  Because workers’ compensation is structured to pay out according to a standardized schedule of payments based on the severity of the injury, employers trying to minimize their liability will often downplay the extent of the harm suffered.  The employer’s insurer has to pay more if the worker is either totally or permanently disabled, as opposed to partially or temporarily disabled.  Lower payouts for the insurer mean lower premium hikes for the employer.  Both employer and insurer have an incentive to characterize the employee’s injury as minor.  To this end, the weapon of choice in the insurer/employer arsenal is to require the employee to undergo examination by the physician of their choosing.

Medical Experts: Evidentiary Standards

Medical testimony is a type of expert testimony.  The standard for admitting expert testimony requires a judge to determine whether the expert’s opinion satisfies the following criteria:

  • The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data;
  • The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
  • The witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case which have been or will be admitted into evidence before the trier of fact.

The same evidentiary standards apply in administrative hearings such as workers’ compensation cases.

Battle of the Experts: Treating Physicians vs. Experts for Hire

Where the extent of an injury or accompanying disability is in dispute, the injured party needs the assistance of both competent medical professionals and competent legal professionals.  Only a competent treating physician can effectively rebut the defendant’s experts.  And only a competent attorney can properly frame the issues to demonstrate to the tribunal what is really happening in such cases through cross-examination.  These disputes are often highly technical in nature, and it can be very difficult for a layperson to identify the flaws in a doctor’s assessment.  But a good attorney and a good treating physician can identify and expose exactly where the hired expert has departed from the principles of medical science.

Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured at work in Georgia, contact Bader Scott Injury Lawyers.  It is especially important that you seek the help of an attorney if your employer attempted to choose your doctor for you, disputes the severity of your injury, or is seeking to rush you back to work before you have fully recovered.  It is important that you not only seek out a doctor who will honestly evaluate the extent of your disability, but also seek out an attorney who will fight to protect your rights.  Just like you need a doctor who serves the patient and not the company’s financial interests, you need a lawyer who is in your corner if your employer tries to shortchange you.

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Seth Bader
(678) 562-5595