The Challenge of Proving Causation for Neck and Back Injuries in Personal Injury Cases

Back and Neck Pain

Claims of back and neck injury are common in litigation involving motor vehicle, slip and fall and other accidents. However, back and neck pain are pervasive problems in the general population making causation a critical issue in personal injury actions. How can the parties demonstrate the alleged accident caused the injury when a significant portion of people experience pain unrelated to a third-party’s negligence? The need to identify legitimate damages and prove causation is a challenge for both plaintiff and defense as trial attorneys battle adjusters in high-stakes litigation that often lacks compelling medical documentation.

“Among adults, 60% to 80% will experience back pain and 20% to 70% will experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities during their lifetimes.” In addition, although adults of every age experience back and neck pain, as we age certain types of problems become more likely such as degenerative changes in discs and joints, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis. Unrelated to an accident or age, a person may have back and neck pain for reasons that include muscle or ligament strain, bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, skeletal irregularities, and osteoporosis.

With so many possible causes of pain, it is often difficult to link pain syndromes to a specific negligent action by a defendant. Objective documentation, particularly medical imaging such as radiographs, CTs, and MRIs, is critical to the case. In addition, medical records documenting the plaintiff’s condition prior to the accident are also mission critical. When a plaintiff has never or rarely experienced back and neck pain, it may be easier to prove causation because part of the proof will involve comparing the plaintiff’s medical history with his/her present condition. However, since the prevalence of pain is so high in the population, it is likely that a plaintiff will have some history of back or neck treatment, which means the present injury and pain level must be distinguished from the past.

Expert testimony is particularly crucial, and it requires utilizing medical experts in relevant subspecialties. For example, Orthopedic (“Orthopaedic”) Spine Surgery is a focused specialty devoted to the surgical treatment of spine injury and disease. Orthopedic Spine Surgeons treat problems of the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral spine such as neck and low back pain, disc herniation, spinal trauma (fractures), vertebral infections (vertebral osteomyelitis), and scoliosis. A Spine Surgery expert witness is an invaluable asset for educating the trier of fact on the existence, etiology, relevance, permanency, treatment, and prognosis of various spinal issues.

In addition, experts in Pain Medicine may also be necessary. Pain Medicine physicians are trained in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of various types of pain. These physicians, sometimes referred to as Pain Management specialists, are typically Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Anesthesiology, Neurology, PM&R, Emergency Medicine, or Family Medicine before subspecializing in Pain Medicine.

If you are considering or involved in litigating claims alleging back and neck injury, top-tier Orthopedic Surgery and Pain Management may be critical to proving your case. Contact Elite Medical Experts to secure a leading expert from a nationally recognized US academic medical center.

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