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  • Danielle Marshall

Medical Imaging Studies & Medicolegal Cases



Medical imaging studies can provide key evidence in medicolegal cases. They can be used to help prove liability. And, as they always say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Medical imaging is always accepted as concrete evidence in the court of law. These imaging studies include, x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans. These imaging studies help identify injuries that effect internal organs but do not show any outward signs.

In any medicolegal case, the medical records of the injured person can prove how serious or debilitating the injury is. However, the medical records will also reveal if the injury is a minor one. When medical records show that the injury is not very severe, defense attorneys will use them to help prove a claim is invalid. A defense attorney can also use the medical records to show that the plaintiff did not follow the treating physician’s recommendations; therefore, the defendant should not be liable.

Medical Imaging Study Types

Medical imaging studies are much more potent than words when it comes to demonstrating a person’s injury. Which makes them, along with a medical expert’s testimony a major deciding factor in medicolegal cases. However, there are some challenges that attorneys must overcome to use medical imaging studies successfully in litigation. But before we discuss these challenges, let’s talk about some of the most common medical imaging studies used in medicolegal case.

  • X-rays – these are good for showing fractured/broken bones, spinal degeneration, and abnormalities. They can also show objects left inside a person during surgery.

  • MRI Scans – these are used to show brain and spinal injuries, joint diseases, tumors, and cardiovascular issues.

  • CT Scans – these can detect bone abnormalities that may not show up on an x-ray. They can also show internal bleeding, injuries to internal organs, brain swelling, and tumors.

  • PET Scans – these are used to identify brain trauma that cannot be captured by other scan type and help determine the extent of an injury.

  • SPECT Scans – these are similar to PET scans but can provide true 3D information. They reveal damaged parts of organs, such as the heart and brain. They can also indicate injuries arising from undiagnosed and untreated cerebral/cardiac conditions.

Challenges Attorneys Face

There are several challenges attorneys need to be aware of before deciding to use medical imaging studies in litigation. These challenges include:

  • They must make sure the images are high-quality to ensure it is easy to see the injury.

  • They must make sure they truly understand the imaging technique used and what the image shows. A medical expert witness can be used to help interpret these studies in court.

  • They also must consider that medical imaging studies can be very complex which can make them difficult to store, move, and view them. They can be stored and shared electronically but many still use DVD’s and CD’s to transports and share these studies, which come with some challenges as well. Like, some studies are large and require more than on DVD or CD to store them. And, DVD’s and CD’s are easy to damage and often get lost.

  • Another major concern is HIPAA compliance. All medical records, including medical imaging are considered Protected Health Information or PHI. This means they are bound by privacy and confidentiality requirements of the HIPAA. Attorneys must take precautions to safeguard these records.

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