How Medical Testimony Controls What Claims You Can Make in Georgia


High impact car accidents can cause a variety of traumatic injuries from compound leg fractures to simple concussions. Our injury lawyers spend a great deal of time discussing symptoms with our clients but one of the frustrating issues is that in order for a particular injury or disorder to be presented to a jury, a doctor must be willing to testify that to within a reasonable degree of medical probability, the injury or disorder was caused by the crash. You can have a serious injury after a car accident in Georgia, but if the treating doctors will not testify that it is medically probable that the crash caused the injury, then your case can be worth substantially less.

Broken bones are easy to handle but the situation can be more challenging where the issue is whether a L4-L5 Diskectomy and Fusion was necessitated by the crash or is just the result of degenerative changes. It literally comes down to whether the treating orthopedist is willing to testify that the symptoms experienced after the crash were probably caused by the crash and whether those symptoms require surgery to cure.

Other injuries that fall into the gray are post concussive syndrome, joints with severe degeneration made symptomatic by the crash, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and even cancer.

Cancer is an interesting case study. There are some non-peer reviewed studies out of England that appear to show a correlation between trauma to the breasts and the development of breast cancer. These studies are far from conclusive but we explored the possibilities for one client before concluding that the oncologists would not be able to testify as to causation to a reasonable degree of medical probability.

The Law of Medical Causation

The burden of proof in a civil trial (that level of proof an injured party needs to reach to recover from the defendant) is more probable than not, or 51% and up. You do not need a doctor to tell the jury that a bad car wreck broke a clients leg, but if the issue is whether the wreck necessitated surgery for a torn meniscus, then the doctor’s testimony is critical.

In all injury and wrongful death cases in Georgia, the Plaintiff must prove that the injury was caused by negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. In medical malpractice cases in Georgia lawyers have traditional used the phrase “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.” This is misleading because the word certainty is a far cry from probability in my book.

The good news is Georgia appellate cases have made it clear that an expert only has to state their expert medical opinion on what caused the injury in a way that is stronger than that of medical possibility. So, reasonable degree of medical probability and reasonable degree of medical certainty a synonymous in the eyes of the law. Zwiren v. Thompson 276 Ga. 498, 503, 578 S.E.2d 862, 866 – 867 (Ga.,2003

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