Often during the course of your personal injury case, you will be scheduled to meet with a doctor chosen or designated by the defense attorney. This event is referred to as a “Defense Medical Exam” or an “Independent Medical Exam.” This is the opportunity of the defense to have you examined by a doctor who will act as the defense medical expert and provide his/her own opinions concerning injuries you suffered in the accident and the course of treatment that you have undergone.
Here are some helpful tips to consider prior to attending your Defense Medical Exam:
- The Doctor is Not Neutral. Although these examinations are often referred to as an “Independent Medical Examination”, you should view the doctor as the defense team’s hired expert. The doctor is hired and paid by the defense, and there are many doctors who make a substantial living off of acting as defense experts and performing these examinations rather than treating patients. More often than not, the defense doctor will provide an opinion favorable to the party who has hired him/her so you should not expect that the doctor will be a completely neutral actor.
- The Doctor is Not Going to Provide Treatment. The role of the defense doctor is to interview you, examine you, review your records and provide an opinion. The defense doctor is not going to prescribe for you or provide you with a plan of care. The purpose of the examination is for litigation purposes only; it is not to provide you with additional treatment.
- Format of the Exam. The portions of your appointment with the defense doctor will be an interview and a physical examination. The defense doctor will also review your medical records, but he/she will complete the review of records either before or after the appointment. For the interview portion of the examination, you will be expected to discuss with the doctor how the accident occurred, your medical treatment, your symptoms, your restrictions, and any prior or subsequent injuries you have suffered.
- How to Prepare For the Exam. There is no preparation necessary for the examination, but it is a good idea to review your medical diagnoses, summary of medical treatment, and be comfortable explaining how the accident occurred and history of your injuries and treatment. Your job during the examination is to be honest and provide a truthful responses. You should be able to be descriptive of your injuries and symptoms, but not over exaggerate.
- No Visitors Allowed. While in other neighboring jurisdictions, plaintiffs can bring a chaperone or be accompanied by their attorney’s paralegal to the appointment, Delaware does not allow you to bring a chaperone or support person into the examination room with you. In rare situations where the plaintiff is a minor or suffers from a disability, the court would allow a parent or support person, but as a general rule of thumb, for Delaware cases a chaperone cannot go into the examination with the plaintiff.
Keep in mind, even if you receive an unfavorable report from the defense medical expert, your attorney can have your own medical expert review and rebut the defense medical expert’s opinions. So while it may seem like the cards are stacked against you, you will have your own medical expert to support your injury claim at trial who will most likely be a treating physician who is much more familiar with you, your treatment, and your medical history.
Tiffany is a partner at MacElree Harvey, a full-service law firm serving Delaware and Pennsylvania. Licensed to practice law in Delaware and Pennsylvania, Tiffany represents clients in personal injury cases, trust and estate litigation, adult guardianships, and real estate litigation. She joined MacElree Harvey in the summer of 2016 and spends her time in the Centreville, Delaware office and the Kennett Square office. Contact Tiffany at (302) 654-4454 or [email protected] to discuss your car accident or other civil litigation matter.