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Independent Medical Exam


In a personal injury case, the defense may demand or request a court to order the plaintiff to go through an independent medical exam. In the independent medical exam, the plaintiff gets evaluated by a doctor of the defendant’s choice.

The independent medical exam usually happens when the plaintiff claims continued physical pains or mental distress. The exam may be physical or mental. The exam is paid by the defendant. Usually the plaintiff is allowed to bring a legal representative to the exam to take notes on what is done or not done. The legal representative observes the length of an exam to make sure the doctor does not do just a cursory exam and then write page mischaracterizing the plaintiff’s history.

The examining doctor does not have a doctor-patient relationship with the plaintiff. The defense exam is for providing testimony in litigation. The exam could last all day. Depending on the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff may have to see several doctors. For example, someone hit by a car while crossing the street with hand injuries and hip problems may have to see both a hand doctor and a hip physician.

After the medical exam, the doctor sends a report to the defendant. The plaintiff can request a copy of the report. The plaintiff can then take the deposition of the doctor if the doctor is expected to testify at trial. Many times, doctors who are experts have gone through the deposition process and know not to say anything unless asked. The doctor is usually paid for his time for giving a deposition.

The plaintiff may want to videotape the deposition. The advantage of videotaping is to catch the doctor off guard when s/he is not wearing the white coat or suit. If the doctor shows up casual, the jury sees a different side to the doctor at trial when the video is shown. The doctor may even show up in a Hawaiian shirt for a lucky plaintiff. The jury may remember a video on the testimony when shown during an opening statement.

When giving medical testimony, the physician needs to follow codes of ethics. The doctor has an obligation to assist the administration of justice. Medical experts should have recent experience in the area they testify. The medical advocate must not become an advocate. The medical witness needs to testify honestly. For example, if the doctor testifies in many defense cases, and has a common theme against plaintiffs, a plaintiff may file a motion to oppose an examination by the doctor.

When struck with a personal injury claim, engage a Hawaii accident lawyer ready attack a defendant’s doctor’s independence or improper exam procedures.