If you’ve been injured in an accident and are pursuing a legal claim, you’ll likely need to attend at least one independent medical examination. While independent medical examinations can provide unique insights into a plaintiff’s injuries – going so far as to help establish causation and providing prognoses for the plaintiff’s recovery – they can create a lot of stress (especially when an opposing party is ordering the plaintiff to attend one!).
The best way to prepare for an independent medical examination (and to quell your fears or unease about the process) is to understand how independent medical examinations work. Below, we’ll outline the steps involved in independent medical examinations and the role they play in personal injury claims.
What is an Independent Medical Examination?
Independent medical examinations are examinations arranged for the plaintiff during litigation by their lawyer or an opposing party. An independent medical examination aims to provide a medical report prepared by a third-party medical professional who can offer a neutral perspective regarding the plaintiff’s injuries and recovery.
Many medical specialists are called upon to conduct independent medical examinations depending on the plaintiff’s injuries, ranging from psychologists to functional medicine and rehabilitative specialists.
The Independent Medical Examination Process
Independent medical examinations are arranged by the lawyers involved with the claim – or, in some cases, the insurer. A skilled personal injury lawyer will guide their client through the process to ensure they understand their obligations and how the process will unfold as their claim advances. We’ve provided a brief overview of the independent medical examination process below for context.
Independent Medical Examination Requests
In many cases, an opposing party will request that the plaintiff attend an independent medical examination scheduled by the opposing party.
Depending on the nature of the independent medical examination and overall case strategy, a personal injury lawyer may agree to the independent medical examination or oppose it. In the latter case, the opposing party may need to apply to the court for an order compelling the plaintiff to attend the medical examination.
When asked to determine whether a plaintiff must attend an independent medical examination requested by an opposing party, the court will look to “trial fairness” as its guiding principle. For further information on the circumstances in which courts may order examinations, see our blog post: Can You Be Forced To Undergo Medical Examinations As Part Of Your Personal Injury Claim?
Choosing a Medical Specialist
If your personal injury lawyer is setting up an independent medical examination, they will select a medical professional with relevant expertise. For example, if you suffer from neurological symptoms due to the accident, they will retain a neurologist for the independent medical examination.
If an opposing party requests that the plaintiff attend an independent medical examination, the opposing party will select the medical professional. Again, the medical professional must have relevant expertise regarding the injuries.
Preparing for an Independent Medical Examination
If you’re a plaintiff preparing for an independent medical examination, you’ll receive a letter from the medical professional outlining what you can expect during the examination. Typically, you’ll need to prepare to answer questions about your medical history, symptoms and injuries, the impact your injuries have had on you, and any treatment you’ve received.
Additionally, your personal injury lawyer (or the opposing lawyer) must provide the medical professional with medical records from your other treating medical professionals.
The Independent Medical Examination
The independent medical examination itself will feel like a comprehensive medical examination. Depending on the type of independent medical examination scheduled, you can expect some or all of the following:
- A physical examination;
- A review of your medical records;
- A discussion regarding your symptoms, medical history, and the impact of your symptoms on categories ranging from your employment to activities of daily living; and
- Additional tests and scans.
How Long Does an Independent Medical Examination Take?
The length of an independent medical examination can vary depending on the nature of the examination, the type of medical specialist involved, and your symptoms and injuries. For example, some independent medical examinations can take an hour or less. In other cases, an independent medical examination may be scheduled over multiple days (with one day dedicated to an interview and assessment and a second day dedicated to an examination).
In any event, your personal injury lawyer will give you as much notice as possible and help guide you through preparing and organizing your examination.
The Independent Medical Examination Report
Following the independent medical examination, the medical specialist will prepare a report outlining their examination and findings regarding the injuries and expected recovery. Depending on the type of report requested, an independent medical examination report can range from short to extremely lengthy, detailing the injuries, impact on employment and hobbies, and proposed treatment recommendations and recovery timeline.
Independent Medical Examinations and Rebuttal Reports
Suppose you are ordered to attend an independent medical examination scheduled by the opposing party, and the results are unfavourable. In that case, your personal injury lawyer may arrange for a “rebuttal report” from another medical professional. This report will respond to the independent medical examination report providing the rebutting medical specialist’s perspective and can be a useful tool for painting a fuller picture of your condition.
Independent Medical Examination Reports in Court
Independent medical examination reports provide crucial evidence to support or challenge the plaintiff’s injury claim if a case is litigated in court. The medical professional who wrote the independent medical examination report will often be called as a witness to discuss their credentials, findings, and more. The opposing party (or your personal injury lawyer) can challenge the report on numerous grounds, and the parties will have an opportunity to question the expert on their findings.
Final Thoughts on Independent Medical Examinations
For many plaintiffs, independent medical examinations can be a stressful experience – especially when ordered by an opposing party. Remember that independent medical examinations can provide powerful expert evidence for personal injury claims, and even when an examination provides an unfavourable result, they are but one piece of evidence that helps paint a picture of your injuries, losses, and recovery.
Knowledgeable Personal Injury Lawyers Assisting Clients With Their Personal Injury Claims
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our skilled personal injury lawyers have many years of experience going up against insurance companies to get full and fair settlements for our clients. We will advise you of the best course of action to obtain the maximum possible settlement so that you can recover financially and move on with your life.