Car Accident Injuries - What's a 'Defense Medical Exam?'

If you were injured in a car accident and your case has proceeded to litigation, you may be required to attend what is called an 'independent medical examination,' or 'defense medical exam.' Under the laws of the State of California, a plaintiff can be required to undergo an examination by a doctor or the Defendant's choice.

Why Does The Plaintiff Have To Attend A 'Defense Medical Exam?'

If you were injured and are pursuing your claim against the at-fault party or driver (the defendant), you will of course be required to explain your injuries and provide documentation. The defendant does not have to take your word for it, even if you have hospital records, doctors office records, and other medical records that document your injuries. The law allows the defense or defendant to have an "independent" doctor evaluate the plaintiff. The idea is that the defense gets a chance to have an "objective" doctor evaluate the plaintiff. Most defense attorneys and the insurance companies they represent have strong biases against doctors who treat injury patients on a lien basis, so the "independent" medical examination supposedly levels the playing field. 

There's Nothing "Independent" About It

First thing to remember is that the defense and the insurance company they represent gets to choose the doctor. These doctors are well paid by the law firm/insurance company. When you're getting paid a lot of money by a law firm, with potentially a steady stream of work coming your way, you're likely to make an evaluation that your client (the law firm and insurance company) will like. For this reason, most California injury attorneys refer to these examinations as 'defense medical exams.' They are, after all, the defense's paid doctors making an evaluation of the plaintiff's injuries. Almost without exception, the defense medical examination results in a report that minimizes the plaintiff's injuries in the eyes of the 'independent' doctor.

What Does The Defense Medical Examination Include?

The doctor conducting the exam is instructed to evaluate injuries and make a report. Thus, the doctor will be looking into injuries involved in the claim. The examination cannot include diagnostic tests, or any procedure that is painful or intrusive. Also, the exam cannot be scheduled further than 75 miles from the Plaintiff's residence. The doctor cannot be from a different specialty than those injuries included in the complaint - that is, if the plaintiff is complaining of neck and back injuries, the doctor doing the defense medical examination must be practicing in that area of medicine. A good California injury attorney will be well versed in how to approach the defense medical examination, ensuring that the Plaintiff is not taken advantage of during the defense attorneys' doctor's exam, which could result in a report that could hurt the plaintiff's case. 

The Day of the Defense Examination

If you are required to attend an independent medical examination, don't go alone. You should attend the examination with your injury attorney, or with someone from the injury law firm's staff or choosing. Don't fill out any paperwork. Remember, you're not the doctor's patient. You're there only because the law requires you to attend. Thus, you're not required to fill out any forms. The office will push paperwork on you, but your attorney will dispense of this with ease. Also, remember that the doctor is employed by the other side's attorneys. He or she is not on your side, no matter how friendly or charismatic. Don't answer any questions you don't feel comfortable answering. Some California injury lawyers will allow the plaintiff to make a brief oral accounting of the accident and injuries, while others will not. Remember that the doctor will likely generate a report that downplays the significance and seriousness of your injuries. If you were injured in a car accident, for example, the doctor may say that the injuries were not likely the result of (or caused by) the car accident, but are 'degenerative in nature.' Your injury attorney will have seen this many times before and will know how to respond.

A Few More Things To Remember

The independent medical examination can be very useful for the other side. They may, in the end, have a report that says your injuries weren't caused by their client, or that your injuries are not that bad. If you were injured in a California car accident, for example, you may be well served by seeking the counsel and representation of an attorney whose practice focuses exclusively on injury claims. These attorneys are well versed in the tricks and tactics of defense firms, and are able to respond and protect your rights to recovery. 

The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. represent injured clients throughout the state of California. If you were injured and it wasn't your fault, an attorney at The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. will gladly evaluate your case and discuss your options. Unlike most car accident law firms in California, you will be speaking with an attorney, not a salesman. Contact The Lions today to discuss any questions you might have. The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. maintains its main office in Orange County, California, but represents California plaintiffs in Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego - the entire state of California.