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San Diego Injury Attorney Explains: What to Expect at an “Independent” Defense Medical Examination

This entry was posted on Friday, April 29th, 2016

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medical examinationWhen you bring a personal injury case in the state of California, the defense or insurance company has the right to request that you undergo an “independent medical examination” or IME.  Don’t be fooled by the title.  The examination is anything but independent.

What is an independent medical examination in a personal injury case?

The independent medical examination is a medical exam by a physician the defense has hired to assess your physical condition and injuries.  The defendant in your case may be trying to prove that your injuries are not as severe as you claim, or may just be trying to see what the extent of your injuries are to determine an appropriate offer.  However, it is important to remember that this exam is being conducted by a doctor whose job is to try to limit the amount of money that will be paid to you and not by an independent doctor.  Your San Diego injury attorney can guide you through this process in the way that will be most helpful to your case.

How does this examination work?

The defense has the right to one physical examination by an independent medical examiner, and the defendant or insurance company is required to pay for that exam.  The physician must be properly licensed to conduct the examination and practicing in an area that is relevant to your injury.  The defense must serve your attorney with written notice 30 days prior to the examination.  The examination must not feature any invasive or painful testing or other procedures, and the examination must be within 75 miles of your home.  Sometimes exceptions may be made about the number of exams, the location or the tests, but only with special permission from the court, based on very particular circumstances.

The written notice of the medical exam should specify the scope of the exam (i.e. what will be done in the exam), as well as the time, the place and the identity of the doctor performing the exam.  Your attorney will review this document and determine if he should object to its terms.  If the details of the examination seem reasonable, you will be expected to attend the exam as noticed.  If they do not, your attorney will discuss this with the defense and the court until an agreement is reached.  You have the right to object prior to the examination if there are issues with the terms, as long as you do so within 20 days of the time the defendant gives notice of the examination.  If there is an objection, your attorney will send it to the defense attorney in writing.

Remember that just because you have not agreed to the terms, this does not mean you will not have to take the medical exam later.  Your attorney and the defense attorney will negotiate with each other or through the court to reach an agreement, and you will be required to take the exam after an agreement has been reached.

Some things to remember when attending the examination

Don’t forget that this exam will be conducted by a doctor whose job is to look for holes in your case.  It is not an “independent” physician, but a defense physician.  

The defense physician is required to only conduct an examination that is relevant to your case and the specific injuries you claim the defendant has caused.  If you are suing for an injury to your foot, the physician is not allowed to examine your shoulder unless there is some specific reason that relates to your foot injury.

You are permitted to have a witness present for the examination, like your attorney or a representative of your attorney, to make sure the physician is not doing things outside the scope of the notice and your agreement with the defense.  This is always a good idea, since the doctor who is examining you is hired by the defense.  

In many cases, you will give an oral history of your condition to the doctor, but this is not required.  This is not your doctor.  He or she is not examining you to treat your condition or help you get better.  You do not have the same rights to confidentiality that you have when you meet with your own doctor.  Your attorney will discuss this matter with you before the exam.  You are not required to sign paperwork given to you by the defendant’s doctor.  You are, however, required to be honest if you choose to answer questions or give a history.

How the IME will be used in your case

The doctor who performs your independent medical examination will prepare a report for your case, which your attorney will request a copy of.  This doctor will often testify about this examination and report in a deposition or trial, where your attorney can cross-examine the doctor about the examination and findings.  

To discuss this and other aspects of your case with a trustworthy San Diego injury attorney, call George Charles Heppner at (888) 503-6473.