To earn a living collecting insurance money from clients injured in car accidents, doctors and lawyers often cooperate. They refer patients to one another, and when a lawyer sues an insurance company to get a patient's medical expenses covered, the lawyer can earn a hefty fee.
New Times explored this phenomenon in a recent feature story on the 1-800-411-PAIN Referral Service, a network of Florida chiropractors and lawyers who send one another clients injured in accidents. But this kind of business partnership is not limited to one company.
Next week, there's a presentation in Tampa aimed exclusively at personal injury attorneys. The cocktail hour is sponsored by a radiology
office, and it's pushing a test called a lumbar loaded MRI -- a procedure tailored to patients whose back problems don't show up on an ordinary MRI. Instead of just lying down for the exam, patients wear a harness and push their feet into a platform to simulate the sensation that they are standing upright.
The goal, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, is to get a better picture of what's causing the pain when patients are standing, because sometimes the symptoms don't appear when they're lying down.
That's all fine and dandy, but why should personal injury lawyers care about such a procedure? And why would radiologists entice them with booze and appetizers to learn about it?
The event's invitation says it all: "New technology can accurately and significantly increase your client's clinical findings," it says. "Axial loading during MRI Imaging of the lumbar spine influenced experienced neurosurgeons to change their treatment decisions from conservative management to decompressive surgery in 50% of these patients."
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Translation: Use this MRI and a doctor will be more likely to recommend surgery for your client. The medical bills will skyrocket and help bolster your legal argument that the client was seriously injured in an accident.
Last summer,when a similar happy hour for personal injury lawyers and doctors was planned in Fort Lauderdale, it sparked public outrage. That event was called "PIP Thursdays," in reference to the personal injury protection insurance that pays up to $10,000 of a driver's medical bills if he's injured in an accident.
New Times called Bayview Radiology in Tampa to ask why it was hosting next week's event on MRIs. Perhaps it was purely educational?
A recorded message explained that the event was exclusively for personal injury plaintiffs' attorneys. We left a message and will update if anyone calls back.