In any claim for compensation where a person puts his physical or mental condition at issue, the insurance company, or other responsible party seeking to defend the claim, will frequently request an independent medical examination (IME) of the person claiming injury. IME’s are routinely requested in cases involving serious personal injuries with significant recoverable damages.
Such exams are almost always permissible under either the terms of the insurance contract or the procedural rules governing the discovery process in a personal injury action. While the logic of allowing such an exam is difficult to question, it is the methods frequently employed by those conducting the examinations that can be problem and why this Independent Medical Examination is commonly referred to as the Defense Medical Exam (DME).
Regardless of what title the exam goes by the crux of the problem lies with the simple fact that the doctor who performs the exam will testify about your injuries for the defendant, usually the insurance company, which is the same party that is paying the examiner‘s fee. Too many reports that are not what the insurance company expected most certainly will result in that doctor not being hired for further exams.
Keep in mind, the doctor examining you is not doing so for the purpose of treatment or to help you find any relief for your injuries. In fact, this doctor is always one that has never provided you treatment in the past. The sole purpose of the information obtained during the exam is to provide the insurance company with a way to call into question your injuries in the event of a trial and/or to give the insurance company a basis for denial of claims.
Some of these physicians perform hundreds of these exams each year for insurance companies so that providing this service is actually a large part of their practice. These often charge well in excess of $1000 for a review of the medical records; significantly more for a patient interview or physical examination; thousands for depositions; and, then if the case goes to trial, thousands upon thousands more.
Clearly a large amount of money can be made by doctors for doing these exams and it pays for them to keep the insurance companies happy with the results of their exams. After all, they will be one too popular with their insurance company clients if they side with the injured plaintiffs, even if the evidence clearly points in this direction.
It is not uncommon for these defense medical experts to bully and intimidate the patient into giving damaging statements. When this doesn’t work, there are those that will simply distort, embellish or outright falsify the statements or observations made during the interview or examination. This is why many experienced personal injury attorneys will either attend the defense medical examination or send someone to observe. There is also a trend toward videoing these examinations to protect against the worst of the defense medical experts.
If you are faced with a request for a defense medical examination, rest assured it is not to help you with your claim. If you do not already have one, and you have significant injuries or damages, then you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney.