What is a compulsory medical examination? Is it important to my personal injury case?
A: Some people call this an independent medical examination. However, it is anything but independent. Your legal opponent pays for it and chooses the doctor who conducts it. Your opponent will choose a doctor known by your opponent to give opinions favorable to your opponent. That is why I call this a compulsory medical examination and not an independent medical examination. The doctor conducting it is not independent – she is paid for and beholden to your opponent.
If the defendant (usually an insurance company) will not pay you a fair settlement and forces you to file a lawsuit, the defendant has the right to force you to submit to an examination by a physician of its choosing. The doctor will submit his or her report to the insurance company and to us detailing the doctor’s opinions of your injuries.
Not only can the insurance company compel you, or force you to do this, but the report and doctor’s testimony are admissible at trial. Therefore, we want you to be armed with as much information about this process as possible. Here are some suggestions and helpful hints:
Preparation and attitude.
Be on time and be patient. Even though most doctor visits result in a significant wait in the waiting room, being on time and starting the examination on the right foot is important and can make a difference.
Do not pay the doctor a cent. He or she is paid by the insurance company.
Even though the doctor is paid by the insurance company and seeks to find all evidence that will minimize your injuries to the jury, it is important that you maintain a positive attitude toward the doctor and do not antagonize them. They are human too (mostly) and can not help but respond to pleasantness.
Talking to the doctor
Do not discuss the incident that caused your injury. Speak only of the injury itself.
Do not blame anyone for your injury. Speak only of the injury itself. The doctor’s job is to determine the severity of your injury, not determine who is to blame.
Of course, the doctor will ask you how you were injured. Simply say, “I was in a car crash.” or “I slipped and fell.” The doctor needs no more information than that to evaluate the extent of your existing injury.
While you should not talk about the incident at all, it is critically important to say as much as you can about the actual injury. Tell the doctor each and every complaint, no matter how small. Injuries can be delayed. A small thing at the doctor’s office can be proof that a more significant injury that shows up later is related to the prior incident.
One way to ensure you do not omit a complaint is to start at the top of your head and describe each complaint you have from head to toe, discussing them in that order. Tell them of all pain, no matter how trivial they seem to you at the time. We like to be strong in front of others and complaining about a number of smaller pains may seem like whining, but remember the defense is out to prove you are not injured so every piece of evidence we have to contradict their claim is important.
In addition to explaining the full extent of your complaints and pain, tell the doctor how the injuries and pain affect your daily life. If you cannot work due to the pain, say that. If you cannot do household chores because of your injury, say that. Has your injury forced you to stop your favorite hobby or recreational activity? Has the pain given you trouble sleeping? Has your married life or relationship suffered as a result of your injury?
Tell the truth! Do not hide information about previous accidents or injuries. Such information will not hurt your case in any way.
Be polite to the doctor and let him do his job. If he proposes a test that you find highly unusual, you can refuse it.
The doctor may be friendly, but the written report will be strictly business, and it is not always in your best interests. Work with the physician, but keep in mind that his job is not to find how much but how little you are hurt.