Using Medical Expert Evidence to Persuade the Judge and Succeed in Your Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim
In many workers’ compensation cases, both sides may have medical experts, and these opposing doctors’ testimony may be the key to succeeding or not. Having a doctor whose testimony is believable and persuasive is essential. Whether it is accumulating and presenting expert witness testimony or some other variety of important evidence, a knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can help you make the compelling presentation you need for a successful result.
A recent example of a worker with persuasive medical expert evidence, who used that evidence to win his case, was Michael, a ramp agent/baggage handler for a major airline. Michael had held this job for 35 years when he was hurt in 2014. Originally, the handler simply listed the new injury he suffered in 2014 in his workers’ compensation claim. The law, however, gives you the opportunity to amend your claim in certain situations, and Michael took advantage of this, amending his claim to assert that the 2014 injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, namely his avascular necrosis and early degenerative joint disease of the right hip.
One of the vital things that you have to prove in any workers’ compensation claim is that the injury you suffered was work-related. To support this assertion, it often helps to have medical expert evidence. Michael used his treating physician, who testified that the pre-existing avascular necrosis contributed to the fracture of the thigh bone that the handler suffered in 2014.
In opposition, the employer offered its own medical expert. The employer’s expert, like Michael’s doctor, was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. The defense expert testified that the handler’s injury appeared to be a groin sprain or strain and that there was no medical proof that it was work-related.
The workers’ compensation judge in the handler’s case ruled in his favor because the judge determined Michael’s doctor’s testimony to be more believable than that of the employer’s expert. The judge, in making this decision, pointed out that the employer’s doctor examined Michael once (as opposed to the worker’s expert, who had examined him many times) and proclaimed a diagnosis of groin sprain/strain, even though the diagnostic studies Michael had undergone did not seem to back up such a diagnosis. All of this served to make him less credible than Michael’s doctor.
Getting this evidence on the record and getting a favorable ruling from the WCJ is so important because credibility determinations by a WCJ are very difficult to overcome in an appeal. The employer appealed the ruling in favor of Michael, arguing that it was wrong to credit Michael’s doctor’s testimony while discrediting the opposing medical expert’s evidence. The Commonwealth Court strongly rejected that argument. Even if an appellate court might agree with an employer’s argument that its expert should have been believed over the worker’s doctor, the employer is still not entitled to a win in its appeal. Pennsylvania law is very clear that “it is up to the WCJ to determine the credibility and weight of the evidence presented.” The WCJ did those things and ruled for the worker, so Michael was entitled to benefits in his claim.
Putting together a winning workers’ compensation case can be a result of multiple different types of evidence, all of which support a persuasive argument for benefits. Knowing the law, the system, and what it takes to achieve a favorable result is the job of a skilled workers’ compensation attorney. The experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm have been effectively representing workers for many years, helping them pursue the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve and need.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (570) 344-1266.