By: Laurie A. McCarthy, Esquire
After filing your personal injury case, there will come a time when the defense attorney or insurance company will want to send you to a hired physician of their choosing to be examined. This is a time when the worlds of law and medicine collide, and clients are often surprised that they are required to see a doctor of someone else’s choosing.
Although defense attorneys routinely refer to these exams as Independent Medical Exams, or IMEs, they are far from independent. Accordingly, we always refer to these exams as Defense Medical Exams, or DMEs.
Five things to consider before attending your defense medical exam:
- The Doctor is Not Independent. The doctor you will be examined by has been hired by and will be paid by the defense attorney or insurance company. Often the doctors involved in these exams derive a large amount of income from such exams, which creates an inherent bias. If the defense medical examiner produces a report that is not favorable to the defense he is not likely to be hired again so instead of the patient’s best interests, these hired examiners have their own (and the defense attorney’s) interests at heart. Remember the examiner is NOT your doctor and they were hired to assist the defense in disproving your claim or minimizing the extent of your injuries.
- You Need to Prepare for the Exam. Before the exam, sit down and make a list of all of the problems you have had with the parts of your body that were injured. Include symptoms you have suffered over time, pain, reduced range of motion, reduced strength, restrictions on your activities and anything else applicable. Be sure to note all medical diagnoses and medical treatment you have received for your injuries. You should also list any prior or subsequent injuries involving the same areas of your body. Thinking about all of this before the exam will help you to be a good historian at the DME. It is important to give a complete and accurate description of your injury(s) and medical history and not hide any prior or subsequent injuries from the defense medical examiner since they will most likely be revealed in your medical records.
- The Exam Itself. Remember the examination is not intended to provide you with medical advice or treatment. The purpose of the examination is to help the defendant defend against your case. The examiner and/or staff will be watching you from the time you arrive to the time you drive away. Do not agree to sign anything without your attorney first reviewing the document. Typically the exam will begin with the examiner asking you questions about your past medical history, current injury and how you are feeling now. Be prepared to provide a detailed description of your injuries and how your life has been affected. Then, the doctor will perform a medical exam of the relevant parts of your body. The doctor may or may not have reviewed your medical records and/or diagnostic films ahead of time to prepare for the exam. Do not bring any documents to the defense medical exam unless your attorney instructs you to do so.
- Your Role at the Examination. Do not take any medication before the exam that may impact the examination. Be on time for the examination and be polite to the defense medical examiner and his or her assistants. Be open and honest and provide detailed information about your medical treatment, symptoms and restrictions. During the exam do not assume that the examiner knows how much pain you are feeling, speak up and be honest about your pain but to not exaggerate. These examiners have many tests they perform to determine if you are exaggerating or faking. Make sure the examiner understands all of your past and current problems and restrictions. Be complete and detailed in your descriptions of your injuries but don’t offer information that the examiner did not ask for. Always remember the basic purpose of this examination is to give the defendant ammunition to oppose your claim.
- Our Protection of You. While we cannot prevent the defendant from requiring that you attend a defense medical examination we will make sure that when the time comes you are well prepared. In addition to preparing you for the exam it is also our practice to send a nurse to the examination with you. The nurse is there to watch and take notes of the examination. The nurse will document all of the tests performed and how long each part of the examination takes to complete. Also in the event of a future dispute between you and the doctor regarding what happened during the exam the nurse can testify as a witness.
The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP is a full-service law firm in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We strive to help people, businesses and institutions throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania solve legal problems – and even prevent legal problems before they occur. To learn more about the full range of our specific practice areas, please visit www.dioriosereni.com or contact Laurie A. McCarthy, Esquire at 610-565-5700 or at [email protected]
 Under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 4010(a)(2), “when the mental or physical condition of a party, or of a person in the custody or under the legal control of a party, is in controversy, the court in which the action is pending may order the party to submit to a physical or mental examination by an examiner or to produce for examination the person in the party’s custody or legal control.”