Florida auto accident victims normally go to a chiropractor as the first stop in treatment for an auto accident. This is because most primary care doctors such as MD's do not treat auto accident injuries. Further if you go to the hospital after a car accident, they normally will take an x-ray, and if you don't have broken bones and are not bleeding they send you home with some Tylenol. When the back pain sets in a day or two after the accident, this is when people normally seek an auto accident doctor. The chiropractor is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat auto accident spinal injuries. This is accomplished by numerous modalities, such as electrical stimulation, laser treatment, ultra sound, hot packs, massage and chiropractic adjustment. The course of therapy for chiropractic may need to continue several times a week, tapering off to once a week, or once a month over a course of several months. Normally patients improve after a month of chiropractic treatment. If improvement is not seen or if the patient is experiencing numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, an MRI is recommended to determine if there is a disc injury to the spine. A disc injury is known as a permanent injury and normally warrants a second opinion by an orthopedic surgeon or neurologist. If the patient fails to obtain an MRI, or the treating physician does not order an MRI, it becomes more difficult to prove the patient has a permanent injury. Chiropractors are qualified and allowed to determine whether an injury is permanent or not, however an MRI certainly bolsters the diagnosis.
In addition to not having imaging proof of a permanent injury that might require surgery, the lack of an MRI presents a unique problem for the personal injury lawyer. When the personal injury lawyer makes a claim for damages, the claim must be supported by medical evidence in the form of medical records. Often the only records are those of the initial visit to the hospital and the chiropractor, and no MRI. Without an MRI to prove that there was a permanent injury, and no consultation with an orthopedic surgeon or neurologist, the personal injury lawyer faces a challenge.
You need a permanent injury to be entitled to compensation for most (not all) car accident cases in Florida. This is stated in Florida’s law as follows: “In order to recover damages in tort against the owner or operator of a motor vehicle (with respect to which security has been provided as required by Florida Statutes ss 627.730-670.7405), the plaintiff may recover damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, only if the injury consists of:
*Significant or permanent loss of an important bodily function
*Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
*Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Compensation for suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, and pain are known as non-economic damages. Unfortunately, in Florida, most motor vehicle accidents will only provide the plaintiff money if they suffer a permanent injury (or another injury listed above). This permanent injury requirement is also known as the tort threshold.
Fortunately, there are exceptions to the tort threshold. Whether you qualify for compensation may depend on the specific types of vehicles involved in the accident. More specifically, you may or may not get compensation depending on whether:
You were driving a “motor vehicle” when the accident occurred; and/or
The person-at-fault was carelessly driving a “motor vehicle” when the accident occurred
While an MRI is not needed in every auto accident claim, it provides significant and important evidence to assist the personal injury attorney pursuing your claim.