How does an MRI help or hurt my case?

An MRI is a device that creates an image of the body's internal structures through the use of magnetic waves.  MRI machines are getting better all the time, and the quality of the images are impressive.  We have conferred with doctors who can show us a three dimensional image of a neck, with all the ligaments, discs and other soft tissues, and move image around in many directions.  So how does this affect an injury claim?

The first thing to keep in mind that the MRI is a diagnostic tool that enables your doctors to investigate the nature and extent of injury.  Doctors typically use the MRI to rule out a serious injury in order to develop a treatment plan.

Neck injuries are a good example.  If there are certain signs or symptoms that alert a doctor that the injury may be more serious, the doctor may order an MRI to get a better idea of what is going on in the neck.  A cervical (neck) MRI is looking for potential injury to the "soft tissues."  These are all the tissues other than the bone, and include the discs, which act as cushions between the neck bones, the ligaments, which hold the bones together, and tendons, which attach mucsles to bone.  In some cases, an MRI will also show damage or injury to the muscle tissue.  

These studies, like all medical evidence, also help attorneys determine the nature and extent of an injury resulting from a car crash, or injury event on the job.  An MRI image is "objective" evidence of an injury.  The term "objective" means that the finding is observable without any input from a patient.  A radiologist, which is the kind of doctor that reads and interprets MRI films, routinely never sees the patient, but instead looks that the image in a seperate room, sometimes many miles away from where the MRI was taken.  Objective findings are generally stronger evidence of an injury.

However, like most objective signs or findings, an MRI is subject to interpretation.  We often argue cases where two radiologists will look at the same MRI image, and come up with totally different interpretations.  It just so happens that in most cases, one of those radiologists is working for an insurance company.  This is often because MRIs not only show damage from a car collision or on the job injury, but also arthritis, or "degenerative joint and disc disease."  These conditions are not due to injury per se, but the wear and tear that comes with aging, and sometimes, genetics.  Many people have degenerative changes in their neck and spine, but no real pain or discomfort.  In many cases, a sudden injury from a car wreck or lifting injury at work can aggravate or worsen these pre-existing problems, resulting in serious injury.  Whether our client's problems and need for medical care is from the collision or these degenerative changes is often the biggest issue in the case.

If you have an Oregon or Washington auto injury claim, or an Oregon Workers' Compensation claim, you may have issues about whether your injury is causing something that is showing up on an MRI. Call us at 503-325-8600 if you have questions.  We have learned a lot from doctors over the years, and help people facing these concerns all the time.

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Joe Di Bartolomeo is a top rated personal injury lawyer helping Oregon and Washington families