CHICAGO — Damaged brains, gunshot wounds and torn muscles are the inspirations for Diane Nelson's drawings and sculptures.
Nelson is a medical-legal illustrator who works with medical reports and X-rays to depict injuries for lawyers arguing medical liability and malpractice cases.
Lawyers credit her anatomical depictions with helping win million-dollar settlements, often before a case gets to trial.
About 400 medical illustrators, not all involved in legal work, attended the annual meeting of the Assn. of Medical Illustrators last week.
Nelson, the meeting's chairwoman, said medical-legal illustration requires someone who not only can depict the human anatomy but also can convey it to jurors who usually don't know much about medicine.
"You can be a fine technician, but if you can't convey what the lawyer is saying, then as far as I'm concerned you've missed the boat," said lawyer Philip Taxman, a former general surgeon who won a $6.2-million verdict with the help of a Nelson sculpture.
Wheaton lawyer James H. Knippen II said he won a $1.9-million settlement in 1988 thanks to a $7,000 sculpture by Nelson. The piece depicted injuries suffered by a construction worker who fell into a hole and was impaled on a steel rod.
"You could literally watch the opposing counsel squirming in their seats," Knippen said.