The need for certainty in personal injury claims

I was recently contacted to review a file on behalf of a woman injured in a bus incident. The accident had occurred a number of years ago and suit had already been filed in the United States District Court. In order to learn a little about the case before conducting an in-depth interview, I asked the individual to please send me copies of whatever medical records and legal pleadings she had in her possession. Unfortunately, the medical reports which were sent for review were on their face insufficient to meet the legal requirements necessary to succeed.

While the physician was able to document an impairment, he was unable to causally relate that impairment to the specific traumatic incident, simply stating “it is possible that the incident was the cause.”

Under our legal standards, an expert’s opinion must be based on a reasonable degree of medical probability or certainty (the case of a medical expert) or to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. The use of the term possible was fatal.

In any personal injury case, it is essential that the plaintiff have an expert causally relate the injury to the specific traumatic event. In other words, in bringing a personal injury case, a plaintiff must have a doctor, not necessarily a physician, state to a reasonable degree of medical, psychological or scientific certainty that the plaintiff suffered an injury that was causally related to the specific incident.