While some Insurance Medical Exams ("IMEs") requested by defense counsel are with doctors who try to be objective and impartial, many are with physicians who earn tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars from doing this type of litigation work. These doctors can be biased and their testimony can be fatal to our case if you do not take steps before and after the IME.
Here are some things to consider before and after you see the Defense Medical Examiner ("DME"):
1. Wear a watch. You may be at this doctor’s office for 4 hours, but you may only be in the physician’s presence for 20 minutes. Any, the actual physical exam may only last 5 minutes. If the doctor then comes to court with a 15 page report detailing a half hour physical examination, your lawyer will be able to effectively cross examine and discredit this "expert witness for hire." We had one DME tell us that he sees 8 people per hour, which means he cannot spend more than an average of 7 minutes with each person; and that includes history and physical ! At $300 per exam, in a 40 hour week that adds up to $64,000 ! At that rate, the doctor is unlikely to "bite the hand that feeds him…"
2. Take a family member or friend. Do not go alone. That way you will have someone who can support our version of what actually happened vs. what the doctor may have in a pre-prepared, "cookie cutter" IME report. In some cases, I have sent a nurse with clients to these examinations which are not for treatment, and in select cases, I have sent a doctor that I have hired, to attend the IME with my client, to make sure nothing "fishy" goes on and to have an expert witness to comment on the thoroughness of the physical exam, history and review of the films.
3. If your condition or symptoms are worse after this visit, see your treating doctor at once. They can record things that the IME missed and contemporaneously negate the negative impressions of the insurance company’s "hired gun." If there are bruises, or changes in coloring or swelling, have pictures taken. You do not have to allow such a medical examiner to hurt you or undue the good work your own treating health care providers have done for you. You also do not have to answer questions outside of your medical condition, treatment, history, symptoms and medications. Defense doctors often interrogate injured plaintiffs about the accident, their family life, background and other irrelevant areas in order to give this information tot he insurance company lawyers to use against you later in court. It is supposed to be a medical examination. Period.
4. Ask questions. It is a medical examination, with a doctor, at no cost to you. Ask what they would recommend if their spouse or loved one had the same injuries you have. Ask about treatment options, healing times and what they do with their own patients. Ask what they think of your treating doctor. Some will actually answer these questions thoughtfully and honestly. Others will ignore them completely. You can testify to these things in court. It is one thing to be sent to a doctor not of your choosing and not for treatment. It is another for that physician to refuse even the common decency of answering any questions that might help you to get better.