Tips for Independent Medical Examinations
Rule 35 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow for the defense to request that a personal injury plaintiff submit to an independent medical examination (“IME”). While defense lawyers will typically assert that they are simply seeking to know more about the plaintiff’s alleged injuries, the primary motive for the IME is to find problems with the plaintiff’s alleged injuries or criticize the treatment that was provided.
Not every defense medical expert (i.e., the doctor who conducts the IME) is bad. Some of them are good and an honest defense doctor can actually help the plaintiff’s case. However, defense doctors know that they cannot issue opinions favorable to plaintiffs and expect to receive lucrative referrals from insurance companies and defense lawyers. Therefore, it is not in a defense doctor’s self interest to be honest in his assessment of the plaintiff’s injuries and treatment.
Therefore, it is important to go into an IME knowing that the defense doctor is not there to help you or your case. As with any part of the lawsuit, it is important to go into an IME prepared. It is recommended that every plaintiff prepare in advance for the IME. The plaintiff should be prepared for both the medical history and the physical or mental examination. The plaintiff should be familiar with her medical history and be capable of accurately and clearly providing it to the defense doctor. Memorization of the medical history is not required. Notes can be prepared and taken into the IME.
The plaintiff should be able to describe the physical activities that have been limited by the accident (e.g., work, hobbies, and daily life activities). Moreover, the plaintiff should be prepared to discuss those activities that can no longer be performed due to the accident. If the defense doctor does not ask about these issues, the plaintiff should mention them anyway. The plaintiff should consider preparing notes summarizing physical activity limitations and be prepared to offer those to the defense doctor to be included with his report.
I recommend to my clients that they never attend an IME alone. The Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure allow the plaintiff to be accompanied by a representative. It is my preference that the representative have a medical background, but this is not required. In Arizona, the plaintiff may record the IME. I have found that having the representative video record the IME serves as an additional method to keep the defense doctor more honest.
The results of an IME can have a tremendous effect on the outcome of a case. If you have been injured due to the negligence of someone else, it is extremely risky to attempt to handle the claim or case on your own.
We represent clients for personal injury claims, including car accidents, slip and falls, product liability, and dog bites in communities throughout Arizona and, especially, in Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Clarkdale, Sedona, Cornville, Prescott Valley, Prescott, Yavapai County, Coconino County, the Yavapai-Apache Nation, and the Navajo Nation. Call us for a free consultation and see if we can help you.