The Preliminary Conference order mandates that a plaintiff must submit to an examination by a medical doctor chosen by the defendant.
Depending on the plaintiff’s injuries, the defendant may choose medical doctors from the areas of medicine that are related to the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, if the plaintiff suffered a spinal injury, the defendants generally are entitled to an examination by an orthopedist and a neurologist.
The examinations are referred to as “Independent Medical Examinations.” I will elaborate as to why such examinations are neither “independent,” nor are they truly “examinations” (as applied to acceptable medical standards).
Firstly, the doctors are selected from a list of medical practitioners that are “contractors” of companies that are in the business of arranging the examinations on behalf of insurance companies. They are paid (quite well) to perform examinations that will result in findings that can be used at trial. Firstly, they are vetted by the companies with the allure of a new source of income for a physician. Knowing that there exists a potential to make money, most doctors (being human) understand that it would not be in their best interest to be fair and impartial. Rather, since money is the motivating factor, the doctors would not be inclined to bite the hand that feeds them. If the generate reports that favor the plaintiff, the chances are quite good that they will not be fed any future examinations.
The doctors are also paid quite handsomely if they are called to testify in court. The average fee to testify (for an orthopedist or neurologist) is $4,000 for a half day / $7,000 for a full day! If their testimony results in a favorable finding (i.e., in favor of the defendant), they are rewarded with the prospect of future examinations by the company.
The examinations are a farce. Most injured persons who attend these examinations are huddled into a small reception area with dozens of other injured persons. The wait can be up to 2 hours to see the doctor. The examinations are not held in a hospital or a real medical office, rather they are held in a regular business office with the only equipment being an examining table.
I provide my clients with a form that documents the entire procedure from Reception Area to examination. (The wait in the Reception Area usually is four or five times longer than the exam itself!)
Once in the examining area, the injured person usually stays many feet away from the doctor while asked a series of questions. No medical tools or instruments are used during the exam (barring a reflex hammer). No diagnostic equipment is used, nor are any sophisticated medical devices used. The injured person does not have a “Patient / Physician” relationship, rather the injured person is a mere piece of chattel that is examined in such a way as to minimize that person’s injuries. This is business, not medicine.
On many occasions, the doctor will not physically examine the injured person and will have that person stand many feet away while the doctor barks out orders to move in body parts various directions.
Rarely are these examinations performed to the same standards as a treating physician.
Depending on the examination, a lawyer can (and should) request that the entire physical examination be videotaped. This may result in some pressure on the doctor to perform a “real” exam.
Ultimately, the best way to fight back is to keep detailed and copious notes that reflect what occurred in the examining room. Those notes may come back to haunt the doctors that perform these fraudulent examinations as they squirm in the Witness Chair.