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The “Independent Medical Exam”

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Posted On 01.16.13 by in Auto Accidents

Many serious automobile accident lawsuits wind their way toward what is often called the independent medical exam (IME).  In reality, these should be called defense medical exams, because there is nothing independent about them.

The exam is the defense lawyer’s chance to have a doctor examine the automobile accident victim, and to write a report that outlines all of the reasons why he thinks the victim’s claim is bunk.  These reasons often include claims that the client is faking or “malingering,” that the injury was pre-existing, or that the victim overtreated.

They are not independent exams any more than doctors hired by plaintiff’s lawyers are independent.  In a sense, the true independent doctors are the treating physicians who know the victim and work outside of the legal arena.  But a doctor who is hired by a defense lawyer knows what answer the defense lawyer wants— and, where there is room for doubt, it is possible that he or she will err on the side of favoring the defense.  A happy defense lawyer is a repeat client.

These types of exams are allowed by the rules of the court.  However, there is very little said about the conditions of the exam, so judges often find themselves negotiating the particulars of these exams.  These negotiations include things like access to the doctor’s list of legal-medical exams, his tax statements showing money paid from the insurance companies, the amount of time the exam can take, whether the victim must fill out any forms, and whether the doctor can question the victim about the specifics of the accident.

How To Handle Your Defense Medical Exam

The most important thing is to first talk with your lawyer about what is going to happen at the exam.  Depending on the agreement with the defense lawyer or the rules of the judge, there may be specific guidelines to help you in your appointment.  Keep your cell phone with you, and if you have any problems or questions during the exam, call your lawyer right away.

Next, be sure to be honest and to be vocal.  This isn’t the time to act with a stiff upper-lip—you must make sure the doctor knows about all of your complaints, no matter how trivial, so that he can properly document them (even if he does not believe them).

Finally, be polite.  There is no sense in arguing with the doctor or becoming confrontational.  The doctor will write about your demeanor in his report, and the judge or jury may see that report.  It is important to stay on your best behavior.

Contact Us

If you have questions after an automobile accident in Maryland or West Virginia, contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-776-4529, or fill out our online contact form.  We can answer your questions and help you deal with the insurance companies.

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