What Is an Independent Medical Exam?

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Many personal injury claims revolve around physical injuries and psychological harm. It is in the best interests of both parties in a personal injury claim to accurately assess the full extent of the injuries and other damages in question in the claim. A plaintiff requires a medical examination to prove his or her physical injuries or illness, but the defense may not accept the plaintiff’s doctor’s assessment and instead request an independent medical examination.

As the name suggests, an independent medical examination helps establish the extent of the plaintiff’s damages. A defendant or even an insurance company may require an independent medical examination to determine whether the plaintiff’s claim of physical injuries is accurate.

How Does an Independent Medical Exam Work?

The criteria for who may conduct an independent medical examination vary from state to state. Generally, the doctor performing the exam must have training and medical knowledge relevant to the case and certification to conduct an independent medical exam. For example, a psychiatrist could not conduct an independent medical examination, but he or she could provide an independent psychological assessment in a claim for emotional damages or psychological distress.

A plaintiff typically must submit to an independent medical examination if he or she alleges physical injuries in a claim. The defense has the right to confirm a plaintiff’s allegations through a neutral third party. The plaintiff should not expect to simply visit his or her usual doctor and expect the exam to meet the court’s requirements.

Criteria for an Independent Medical Examination

The standards for an independent medical examination vary from state to state, but most must meet several general requirements.

  • The party demanding the independent medical examination must provide the injured party with enough notice of the date, time, location, and manner of the examination.
  • The party demanding the independent medical examination must also disclose the full scope of the examination to the plaintiff.
  • Unless special circumstances or the plaintiff’s condition require multiple examinations, a defendant can typically only request one independent medical examination.
  • The party demanding the independent medical examination, either the defendant in a personal injury case or an insurance company reviewing an injured party’s claim, must pay for the cost of the independent medical examination.
  • The medical professional who conducts an independent medical examination must be available for cross-examination at depositions or trial.

Any plaintiff who alleges physical injuries or illness as damages in a personal injury claim should expect to submit to an independent medical examination.

How Will an Independent Medical Exam Affect a Personal Injury Case?

The independent medical exam offers a neutral assessment of the plaintiff’s damages. A plaintiff’s usual primary care physician may have an unconscious bias toward a long-time patient and may not offer an accurate assessment of the patient’s condition. The party conducting an independent medical examination provides a full report of his or her findings concerning the plaintiff. This report generally includes a full scope of the plaintiff’s injuries, the attending physician’s prognosis, and the patient’s recommended treatment plan.

While a defendant in a civil claim may have the right to demand an independent medical examination, insurance companies most commonly require these exams to minimize the amount they must pay out on claims. Bias is a problematic factor in many independent medical examinations required by insurance companies. These companies often work with the same doctors repeatedly, and those doctors tend to protect insurers because of the consistent business they provide. A patient submitting to an independent medical examination may bring a witness to the exam if he or she wishes, and this can help ensure the doctor performs an honest and accurate exam. For more information regarding how an indepedent medical examination can impact your personal injury case, speak with a knowledgeable injury attorney in West Virginia.