Insurance companies often want to send you to a hired physician for a so-called independent medical examination. The rules controlling the lawsuit process allow a defendant to have a medical professional of their choice examine an injured plaintiff. These examinations are a time when the worlds of law and medicine collide. Clients are often surprised when such an examination is demanded. And surprised they are required to see a doctor of someone else’s choosing. In your everyday life you are used to seeing doctors you know, trust and have selected. Those are physicians who have a patient’s best interests at heart.
In contrast, in an injury case, it is the insurance company and their law firms that choose the examiner. If the hired examiner authors opinions that are not favorable to the company’s bottom line they will be far less likely to get hired again. Instead of the patient’s best interests, at times these hired gun examiners have their own (and the insurance carrier’s) interests at heart.
Call The Independent Medical Examination What It Is: A Defendant’s Hired Medical Examination
The rules of court refer to these assessments by the opposing party’s doctor as the independent medical examination or “IME”. They are at times not very independent. Lawyers who represent injured people call IMEs by a number of names such as Defense Medical Examinations or Insurance Medical Examinations. I often just call them Defendant’s Hired Medical Examinations. Because that is what they are. There is somewhat of a stable of go-to physicians that the insurance companies and their hired defense lawyers regularly use. Those doctors get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to offer opinions.
What is the Purpose of A Defendant’s Hired Medical Examination?
Nonetheless, in most injury cases, Idaho law give the defense the right to have a doctor of their choice examine you, at their expense. The basic purpose of this examination is to check your current medical condition, reach an opinion of whether your injuries were caused by the incident at issue. In addition, it is to reach some conclusions about your future medical course. Moreover, the hired heir examiner will provide opinions about the medical treatment that you have received up to the present time. This can give the defendant ammunition to oppose your claim. It is not at all unusual for the hired examiner to disagree with opinions your real doctor has expressed concerning your condition.
Litigation Medical Examination Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Really Have To Go To This Examination?
In most cases you will be required to attend an IME sought by the defendant. There are circumstances where this is not true, but generally all we can do is help with scheduling and setting some ground rules for the physician.
What Is Going To Happen At This So-Called independent Medical Examination?
At the examination, you will frequently receive paperwork to fill out. You have to be careful about this step of the process. Everything you write down is something they will try and figure out a way to use against you.
In the examination, the defendant’s doctor will ask you questions concerning your past medical history, your present injury, and how you are feeling now. The doctor will also physically examine you.
The more egregious and completely “sold-out” examiners will go through a detailed interview about the injury accident itself. All of this is an effort to create contradictions between your statements to the physician, prior medical records and your deposition. There are lots of understandable and innocent reasons why you might explain things differently in the different settings The defense lawyer and the defense hired physician will nonetheless use such matters to attack your credibility.
The purpose of the examination is to help the defendant in its defense of its case. The examination is not intended to provide you with medical treatment.
Never Forget: The physician is not your doctor. He is hired, paid for and cares about the insurance company and the lawyer who hired him.
Is there Some Way to Prepare for An Independent Medical Examination?
Before the examination, sit down and take time to think about your injuries and medical problems. Also, think about any prior condition that you may have had involving the same areas of your body for which you are presently claiming injury. Make a list of all the problems you have with the part of your body that is injured. That can be pain, reduced range of motion, reduced strength, all sorts of things. It is important that you give the defendant’s doctor a complete and accurate description of your injury and medical history.
It is useful to think about your injuries in a very structured and methodical way. The best structure in our experience is for you to start at the top of your head and describe any problems (injuries abrasions headaches etc). Then move on to your face, the sides of your head, the back of your head, then your neck, right shoulder, left shoulder, right upper arm, right elbow, wrist, hand left etc. etc. etc.
You should not discuss with the doctor injuries that are not related to this case, unless you are specifically asked.
How Will The Law Firm Handle Your Defendant’s Hired Medical Examination
We will usually have a person attend the Defendant’s Hired Medical Examination with you. It can be one of our lawyers, a hired nurse or a staff member. We often have them videotaped or tape recorded. Sometimes we have you go to the examination with a friend spouse or family member. We believe it is often important that someone, in addition to yourself, be a witness to the events that occur in the doctor’s office. We will ask the person accompanying you to watch and take notes. In addition, that person should also time the entire interaction between you and the hired examiner.
We may have someone videotape or tape record the examination in appropriate circumstances.
What Should I Do at The Examination?
- Be on time.
- Be polite at all times with the doctor and his or her assistants.
- When answering the hired examiner’s questions, only answer exactly what is asked and nothing more. You are not in there for a chat with the doctor. It is not helpful for you to give him information he doesn’t ask for.
- Be complete and detailed in your descriptions of your issues. If you forget to mention something you will set yourself up for unnecessary problems later on.
- Do not sign anything you don’t understand.
- Do not exaggerate or fake your problems. Dont be stupid. Defendant’s doctors have tests they use to detect exaggeration or faking. If they decide you are doing it you create problems for yourself. Of course, at times they decide you are faking when you are 100% honest. We can deal with that. Do not assume that the doctor will know how badly you hurt just by examining you. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell the doctor exactly how you feel. Explain your situation to the examiner honestly and without embellishment.
- The doctor and his staff will be watching you the entire time you are in the doctor’s office. They also watch as you arrive and after you leave until you drive away. Therefore, it is important that you do not exaggerate or fake anything at any time.
- If you have pain at the time of the examination, tell the examiner. Make sure the examiner understands what parts of your body are still giving you problems and what causes the problems. For example, “My low back aches when I sit for longer than one-half hour.” Or “My knee hurts when the weather is cold and or a storm is coming in.”
- Do not take any documents, x-rays or reports or other items to the independent medical examination doctor unless your lawyer tells you to do so.
- The examiner is not on your side, do not ask them give you any opinions about your injury or your case.
- You are being examined by the examiner scheduled to see you. Do not agree to any other examinations.
- You and your witness should take notes during the examination. As soon as the examination is over, jot down anything that you think is memorable.
Hired Examiners Have An Advantage
These examinations can be a source of great mischief. Physicians who are regularly hired as examiners are comfortable with legal proceedings and courtroom testimony. Ordinary treating physicians are more interested in treating patients and view the litigation process as a distraction or a headache. This is unfortunate and certainly gives the insurance company a “leg up.”
In the end, however, by following the basic rules and above all being honest with your own medical providers as well as the hired examiner, we can help handle some of that imbalance.
If you have questions about an injury claim, contact us online, call or text us at 208 343-7510 for a free case review and evaluation. We help people all over Idaho.