When do I Get an Independent Medical Examination?
If you want to recover for injuries you sustained in an automobile accident, you will have to provide proof of these injuries. Whether you are in the insurance claim process, a settlement negotiation, or at trial, a report from a trusted doctor’s examination will strengthen your position.
Many defendants rightly fear that the victim could use a biased doctor—one who would be willing to exaggerate the extent of the injuries or the cost of treatment.
For that reason, defendants often ask the victim to get an independent medical examination.
The Defendant’s Right to Request an Independent Medical Examination
In an automobile accident trial, the defendant can usually request the victim to be examined by the doctor of his or her choosing. This is not an absolute right, however.
For instance, if you’re the plaintiff and the defendant compels you to get an independent examination, you have the right to ensure the examination will in fact be independent. While you can always expect the results of the independent medical examination to be conservative, you do not have to submit to a doctor who clearly shares the defendant’s interests.
You can do your due diligence and determine whether the requested doctor is independent and trustworthy. If you can find proof that the requested doctor is biased, you can ask to see another doctor. In some jurisdictions, you can even request that your attorney accompany you to the examination!
The Plaintiff’s Choice of Submitting to an Independent Medical Examination
The plaintiff is under no legal obligation to submit to an independent medical examination before he or she files a claim and opens the litigation. That being said, seeing an independent doctor could be desirable or even necessary in the pre-trial phase.
Before paying your settlement, for example, an insurance company might ask that you see a doctor of its choosing. If you have nothing to hide, then you usually have no reason to not comply. The request is just an administrative safeguard on the insurance company’s end.
When it comes to negotiating a settlement, seeing an independent physician might even be in your interest!
If you are attempting to settle with the responsible party, having a reliable and objective body of medical evidence is essential. Refusing to see the other party’s medical expert can make it look like your injuries are not as severe as you claim. By submitting to an independent medical examination, you send a strong signal of good faith and confidence to the other parties. This can significantly improve your ability to obtain a good settlement amount.
That being said, you should proceed with caution. Make sure the other parties are not merely attempting to build a body of medical evidence to use against you later on. Should the settlement negotiations break down, you want to make sure that you are in a position to win at trial. Never agree to see a doctor who seems untrustworthy or biased. If possible, no more than one independent medical examination should occur, and the same doctor should perform the second examination if necessary.