What is an Independent Defense Medical Exam?

If you have been in a car accident or suffered any other type of personal injury and you have sued the responsible person (defendant), you will likely have to submit to a defense medical exam or DME. Okay, the real name of it is an Independent Medical Exam or IME. It is performed by a doctor paid for by the defense insurance company and is not really independent. California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 2032.210-2032.620 govern the DME.

The Defense Medical Exam is one of the most important parts of a lawsuit. It is important because the doctor examining you is most likely the doctor that the defense will use at trial to say you are not really hurt, that you are not hurt as badly as you claim, or that you should have improved within a few days or weeks. Remember, people (juries in your case) tend to believe doctors. So what the defense medical exam doctor says about you at trial can dramatically affect the outcome of your case.

What you should know about an IME:

1) Always remember that ultimately the defense is paying this doctor to report that you are not as injured as you claim – the doctor is not on your side

2) Do not minimize your injuries (too many people act like a tough guy in these exams and minimize their injuries – this is the time to let the defendant know just how badly you are hurt). Be precise about your injuries.

3) Do not overstate your injuries (remember the person examining you is a doctor and will know when you are exaggerating and will happily point this out in their report or testimony). Be precise about your injuries.

4) Do not involve yourself in a conversation with the doctor that has nothing to do with your injuries. The defense doctors can and will find a way to use this to hurt your credibility at trial.

If you have had a Car Accident or Other Personal Injury case in San Francisco, Sacramento, or San Jose, California, there is a good chance that you will see one of a handful of doctors. This should not be surprising. Once these doctors realize what the defense attorneys want and give it to them, the same doctors will be hired over and over.

These doctors can often make as much money performing these exams and testifying at trial as they can in their normal practice. But this is not always a bad thing. If you have hired an experienced personal injury attorney, he or she will have information on these doctors who testify regularly for the defense that will be helpful to your case at trial.

Another recommendation that I have is to ensure your attorney sends a letter to the doctor before your examination confirming that the doctor has all of your applicable medical records and any other information needed for the exam. The reason for this is that the exam should only be about your current condition and not your medical history or what happened the day of the injury (that is what a deposition is for, and the defense has no right to make you go through that again – especially if they are doing this to find inconsistencies to use against you).

Finally, encourage your San Francisco personal injury lawyer to send someone from her office to attend the DME with you. This is important because what you recall and stated at the Defense Medical Exam, and what the doctor says you said, are often at odds. At trial, it is just your word (someone trying to get money through a lawsuit) against a doctor (a respected member of the community). Having someone there with you and the doctor will help ensure that the story and events told by everyone at trial will be what really happened.

I also want to make clear that most doctors that do defense medical exams are respectable and honest. You can expect them to examine you and give a fair assessment. There are some (like in all professions), however, that will not. They will almost always say a plaintiff is not badly hurt and should have recovered in a few weeks. It is because of those few doctors that I provide the advice given here.

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We are the San Francisco Personal Injury Attorneys and San Francisco Car Accident Attorneys dedicated to helping those injured by the carelessness and negligence of others. We will aggressively represent auto accident victims and if you or a loved one has been injured in San Francisco, Sacramento or San Jose, please call us for a free consultation. This post is the first in a series of what people involved in a personal injury lawsuit can expect. Check back often for more updates.

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