As part of a personal injury claim, you may be asked to submit to a medical examination. You are probably dreading the prospect of being examined by an unknown physician or chiropractor. That is totally normal. At the same time, submitting to an exam can be necessary to move your case forward. It is therefore important to understand the purpose of these exams and what you can do to best prepare.
Types of Examinations
There are two main types of medical exams in a personal injury case. The first is referred to as an independent medical examination (IME) which has been scheduled by your own insurance company via the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) portion of your auto insurance policy. In this instance your insurance carrier is trying to ascertain your medical status to see if it can justifiably refuse to pay for treatment.
The second type is a defense medical examination (DME) that has been scheduled by the defense when your claim is in litigation. The defense will use this exam to diminish or defeat your claims of injury and the necessity of treatment.
What to Expect
The examiner will be a chiropractor, physical therapist or medical doctor who has reviewed your medical records and any other documents provided to him/her. At the appointment he or she will first ask interview questions to get some background on your version of the facts and your resulting pain symptoms and injuries. He or she will then examine you to determine the cause and extent of injury and supply an opinion as to the past and future medical treatment needed, whether maximum medical improvement has been reached, and whether any permanent impairment exists. Remember that you do not have a doctor-patient relationship with this examiner and nothing you say is confidential.
What to do during an examination
When an IME/DME has been scheduled for you, it is important to do the following:
- Tell the truth: The most important thing about an IME or DME is to be truthful and be yourself. If you exaggerate or lie, you put your credibility in serious doubt, and that will damage your case significantly.
- Do not exaggerate: Many people have a tendency to exaggerate, even on accident, in order to prove that they are right. Be very careful not to exaggerate your injuries and pain. These doctors are trained to detect exaggeration and your case will be weakened if they believe you are doing so.
- Organize your thoughts: Take a little time to sit down and organize your thoughts. Recall the specific areas of your body that were injured and in which you have felt pain or weakness. It will be critical to provide a complete and accurate description of your injuries and pain complaints, so take the time to mentally relive this difficult portion of time in your life. Also, never discuss prior or unrelated pain complaints and/or injuries unless specifically asked by the doctor.
- Support: You can bring a family member or friend to the appointment with you. Not only can they offer moral support, but they can monitor the length of time you are in the exam and can attest to their observations (if necessary) before and after the examination. It is likely that someone from our office may be able to accompany you to the examination as well.
- Be punctual: Be on time or even slightly early for your examination.
- Be respectful: Be courteous with everyone you encounter in the office. Even if you get frustrated or feel uncomfortable, it is very important to be polite. Everything you do will be documented at this visit.
- Only answer the question asked: When responding to the doctor’s questions listen carefully to what is being asked, and only answer the specific question asked, nothing more. Do not volunteer any additional information.
- Focus on the location of the pain: You will be asked about your injuries and pain symptoms. It can be helpful in fully describing each and every injury you suffered to begin with your head and work down your body to your feet. Be sure to address the parts of your body that still cause you pain and limitation. If at any time during the examination you are experiencing pain, be sure and tell the doctor.
- Do not sign paperwork without talking to us: As a general rule, do not sign anything that has not been reviewed and approved by our office.
- The exam begins when you arrive: You are being watched the entire time you arrive at the examiner’s office and possibly even after you leave and make your way to your car. Be aware of what you say and how you behave at all times.
- Don’t share medical docuemnts: Do not take any documents, x-rays or medical reports to the exam unless instructed by us to do so.
- Don’t ask the examiner for medical advice: Do not ask the doctor to give you any opinions about your injury or your case.
- Don’t let other doctors examine you: No other doctor should examine you or even be present other than the specific doctor scheduled to see you.
- You can take notes: You or your witness should feel free to take notes during or after the examination. This would include any observations, thoughts, questions or comments you may have about the exam. Share this with our office.
- It is normal to fee anxious about an upcoming medical exam. Please call us if you have any additional questions or concerns before your appointment. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible during this process.