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J. Mark Melhorn

Abstract

Medical evidence is drawn from observation, is multifactorial, and relies on the laws of probability rather than a single cause, but, in law, finding causation between a wrongful act and harm is essential to the attribution of legal responsibility. These different perspectives often result in dissatisfaction for litigants, uncertainty for judges, and friction between health care and legal professionals. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) provides an example: Popular notions suggest that CTS results from occupational arm or hand use, but medical factors range from congenital or acquired anatomic structure, age, sex, and body mass index, and perhaps also involving hormonal disorders, diabetes, pregnancy, and others. The law separately considers two separate components of causation: cause in fact (a cause-and-effect relationship exists) and proximate or legal cause (two events are so closely related that liability can be attached to the first event). Workers’ compensation systems are a genuine, no-fault form of insurance, and evaluators should be aware of the relevant thresholds and legal definitions for the jurisdiction in which they provide an opinion. The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment contains a large number of specific references and outlines the methodology to evaluate CTS, including both occupational and nonoccupational risk factors and assigning one of four levels of evidence that supports the conclusion.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
J. Mark Melhorn

Abstract

A request for an impairment rating using both the fourth and sixth editions of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) demonstrated two interesting facts: In the sixth edition, Table 15-34, Shoulder Range of Motion has two typographical errors. First, Grade Modifier 3 (column 6) and the Internal Rotation (IR) (row 12) lists ≤20° ER = 8% UEI; this should be ≥20° ER = 8% UEI; and Grade Modifier 4 (column 7) and IR (row 12) lists: 20° to 50° IR = 6% UEI, ≥60° IR or 10° IR to ER = 0% UEI; this should be ≥60° IR or 10° IR to ER = 10% UEI. Second, the impairment rating using the fourth and sixth editions resulted in the same total impairment. A case example presents a 54-year-old male who experienced a right shoulder strain that was determined to be a right shoulder rotator cuff tear of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles. The patient was evaluated for impairment based on the range-of-motion method in the fourth edition of the AMA Guides, and 13% upper extremity impairment was determined. Using the sixth edition produced similar results, demonstrating how similar impairment ratings can be based on the fourth and sixth editions.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter