During the course of 30+ years practicing personal injury law in Los Angeles, I have been asked by many clients whether it is a good idea to submit to an MRI as a part of their personal injury claim.
In this article, I discuss the pros and cons of having an MRI as part of your treatment plan in pursuing a claim for an injury, and whether it can increase the value of your claim.
What is an MRI?
An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), is a form of imaging used for the purpose of diagnosis, similar in purpose to an x-ray. However, unlike an x-ray, an MRI can produce images of non-bone matter, such as disc material in the spine. In fact, in the case of a spinal injury from a slip-and-fall or an automobile collision, it is more often than not the disc(s) in the spine that are the source of the injury and the pain. The results of the images can be used by your treating physician, chiropractor, and in the case of a more serious injury, your surgeon.
What are the “PROS” of having an MRI?
There are certainly upsides to having an MRI, especially in the case of a cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), or lumbar (lower back) injury. From a treatment perspective, an MRI can reveal the cause and extent of injuries that an x-ray cannot. It can help your doctor(s) treat the cause of your injury, whereas less invasive (“conservative”) treatment, like that received from a chiropractor, may not be effective. In the case of a more serious injury, where conservative treatment such as ice/heat therapy, massage, chiropractic adjustment, and/or medication has not relieved the pain symptoms you are experiencing, you may be a candidate for surgery. Only your doctor can tell you if you would benefit from surgery. However, your doctor, surgeon, or specialist will likely want to conduct imaging with MRI in order to determine a plan of action.
From a legal perspective, having an MRI may increase the value of your claim. As opposed to pain stemming from muscle strain/sprain or bruising, commonly referred to as “soft tissue injuries”, more serious injuries such as slipping of the spinal discs (disc “herniation”) and/or nerve compression in and around the spine will more often than not require much more extensive and involved treatment with specialized doctors. These injuries tend to last longer and have a larger impact on a client’s life, and the required doctors are typically more costly. Because one of the basis for the amount of a settlement offer is the extent and cost of your past and future medical treatment, the insurance company and any other defendants in your case will need to take these factors into account when making an offer for settlement.
What are the “CONS” of having an MRI?
There are typically no downsides to having an MRI from a medical treatment standpoint, because the MRI gives your doctors more information from which to work. From a financial and legal standpoint however, an MRI may have its downsides.
First, an MRI can be very costly, at around $1200 for the cervical spine (neck) and $1600 for the lumbar spine (lower back). It is important to keep in mind that you will need to pay these diagnostic imaging costs out of your settlement.
Second, your settlement offer may not increase as the result of an MRI. Because 25% of the population has some sort of disc bulging (herniation), an MRI showing herniation may not convince the defendant insurance company that your herniation was the result of the accident. The answer to this really depends on the extent of the herniation. Typically, a 3 to 4mm disc herniation is significant enough to warrant more extensive medical treatment, and therefore more likely to increase your settlement amount.
Ultimately, the decision to have an MRI should be made between you, your doctor(s), and your experienced attorney .
For over 30 years The Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have helped those injured in auto collisions, slip-and-falls, dog bites and all types of personal injury situations. We will work with you and your doctors to develop a medical treatment plan that works for you in order to get you the care and compensation that you deserve. Call today for your free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404.