In 2018, there were a total of 63,564 personal injury cases filed in US civil courts alone. This shows an almost 10,000 caseload increase from the year before.
Car accidents are the top reason for such injuries. In total, these incidents injure or disable up to 2.35 million Americans every year. Falls are also a leading cause, with almost 8.6 million incidents of them occurring in 2017.
Regardless of the cause, most personal injury claims often require a medical exam. The other party — the one you’ll sue — will no doubt request for a medical examination report. It’s part of their rights as a defendant, after all.
What exactly is this exam though and what purpose does it serve? What should you expect to happen during this exam?
We’ll answer all these questions in this post, so be sure to keep reading!
Medical Examination Report for Personal Injury Claims: Not So “Independent”
A personal injury medical exam is also called an “independent medical examination” (IME). People or businesses facing a personal injury lawsuit has the right to request this. And in most cases, the defendant (or their insurance company) can choose who will perform the IME.
Yes, it’s the defendants who pay the medical practitioners who perform the exams. That’s why even if it’s called “independent”, it’s rarely so. No, IME doctors can’t lie, but they can review the medical evidence in a way that’s more favorable to their clients.
This doesn’t mean you should be afraid of your IME doctor. Keep in mind that in the US, healthcare fraud alone accounts for 3% to 10% of healthcare expenditures. Preventing fraud is one reason personal injury defendants (or their insurers) request IMEs.
A Medical Examination Starts from the Very Moment You Arrive
An IME starts minutes before the actual doctor’s appointment. It’s not impossible for the doctor’s staff to be checking on you from the parking lot or entrance of the building. They’ll start monitoring your gait, as well as how you move your neck, arms, and torso.
They’ll also observe your general appearance, such as how you dress and your hygiene. They’ll note of any signs of distress and discomfort. All these happen from the moment you arrive at the testing facility.
As soon as you enter the doctor’s office, the medical examiner will be on alert for exaggeration. The doctor will always be checking your entire body, from head to toe, for any sign of deception. They’ll look closely at your facial expressions to see if you’re “overemphasizing” symptoms.
The important thing here is to be consistent with your report and your actual behavior. Be honest about your symptoms and what you feel. This way, the IME doctor won’t have anything contradictory to report to their client.
A Series of Questions That Should be Relevant to Your Injury
Most medical examiners start by asking how the plaintiff feels, such as if they’re sore or in pain. If the doctor asks you, “How are you feeling now”, determine if they want to know how you feel that very moment. They could be asking how you’re feeling “now”, as in at this point after your injury.
Be honest and use the most accurate descriptive words. Instead of saying “I’m sore here” or “This side is painful”, say “There’s a stabbing pain in this area”. The more descriptive you are, the clearer you can relay what you feel to the doctor.
The doctor will also ask you to recount details of the accident that led to your injury. Tell the physician the same things you’ve included in your initial accident report.
You may also have to share details of your ongoing treatment, such as the medications you now take. Give the names of all the prescription drugs you take for the injury you’ve sued for.
Gauging the Level of Pain
Most medical examinations also test for pain using the universal pain scale. The doctor will ask you to rate the severity of your pain, with 10 being the highest. Most people who go for an IME experience moderate pain levels (pain level 4 to 6) or severe pain levels (pain level 7 to 10).
Be sure to ask your treating doctor (the physician you saw and continue to see after the accident) for advice. They can help you describe your pain level accurately for the IME.
Range of Motion Test
Let’s say that you’ve filed a negligence lawsuit in accordance with brain injury laws. This means that your injury was preventable but it still happened, due to the defendant’s lack of care. As a result of your injury, you’ve suffered temporary or partial paralysis.
The independent medical examiner is sure to test your range of motion (ROM) because of this claim. The doctor will ask you to try to move the affected area or may use a goniometer for the test. This instrument tests the angle of the joints and checks if the joint can go to a certain position.
In short, ROM will help the doctor determine if you indeed have limited mobility.
Submit to the exam, but tell the examiner right away once you feel pain. Again, be sure to describe the pain you feel, and if possible, rate it using the pain scale.
Many types of injuries, such as brain injuries from falls and car crashes, can cause nerve damage. Parts of the body with damaged nerves can also lose their mobility and function. That’s why your medical examination report may also include findings of a reflex test.
Pass That Medical Exam to Receive the Compensation You Deserve
There you have it, your ultimate guide on what a medical examination report is. Now that you know what it involves, you can better prepare yourself before and during the exam. The better prepared you are, the higher your chances of acing that exam.
And remember, the IME doctor may be neutral, but their primary purpose isn’t to treat you. Their goal is to find something that their client may use against your personal injury case. So, be polite, lay only the facts on the table, and don’t exaggerate.
Need more guidance for boosting your chances of winning your personal injury claim? Then check out the other posts we have under our site’s Personal Injury Lawyers section!