When clients are injured in various types of accidents in New York, including motor vehicle, slip/trip and falls, and other accidents due to unsafe conditions, they are invariably required to attend examinations known in the legal community as “IME’S.” Simply put, defense attorneys and insurance companies retain doctors who are well known in the community as virtually never finding any permanent injury, disability or medical condition. Armed with reports by these so called “independent” medical examiners, who are more than happy to charge several thousand dollars to testify to their findings at trial, insurance carriers are emboldened to hold firm with either “no pay” or minimal offers of settlement, in the hope that plaintiff attorneys will not want to expend the time and money to litigate cases through trial–thus, cases settle cheaply.
Our firm has a list of instructions that we provide to our clients prior to these examinations, which we have found to be invaluable in cross examining insurance company doctors at trial. First, in many instances, the insurance company doctor’s staff will request that the client fill out a complete questionnaire, as if your client was a patient. We instruct our clients that other than basic information such as name, age, and medical complaints, they should refuse to complete these questionnaires, which often are used by the insurance company doctors to attempt to obtain inconsistent facts or information not relevant to the case.
Also of great importance, these doctors frequently attempt to conduct a mini-deposition, with such questions as “Where were you looking just before the light changed?” or “Did you see the ice before you fell?”. These deposition type questions have nothing to do with the medical examinations, and are clearly asked by the doctors for the sole purpose of assisting the defense attorney in litigating the case. Clients must be strongly cautioned that the only proper inquiry by the doctor during the history portion of the visit is as to the injuries, treatment, medications, pain, disability, and prior medical history.
Lastly, we request that our clients time the examination from the moment they enter the examination room until the time they leave the office. Why do we ask them to do this? For a simple reason. These doctors frequently do 25-40 of these examinations in a single day, and rarely spend more than 15 minutes from start to finish with the client. However, when they the doctor takes the stand, he or she will testify without blinking an eyelash that the examination lasted 45 minutes to an hour, and was thorough and complete. It is at this point that we ask the doctor a simple question: “Doctor, what if I were to tell you that I requested that my client time the examination, which in actuality, began at 10:45 and he was out of your office by 10:59? What would you say to that, doctor? ” Without exception, this causes jurors to look directly at the doctor and wonder–is this co called “thorough” doctor lying to us?