What is an Independent Medical Examination in a Semi Accident Lawsuit?

Posted in Car Accidents on May 11, 2021

Have you ever heard the words “Independent Medical Examination” in the context of a personal injury case?

In a recent Georgia case, the plaintiff Michael Jacob Castle-Foster, and his Atlanta personal injury lawyer, sued Cintas Corporation for $7,500,000 for injuries the plaintiff received when a Cintas employee driving a company truck struck his 2002 Lexus.

The plaintiff was traveling in the southbound lane of Old Augusta Road in Rincon, just outside of Savannah, Georgia, when he collided with the truck that was turning out of Rincon Stillwell Road. The plaintiff’s Atlanta personal injury lawyer claimed the truck turned left into his path after failing stop at a stop sign and failing to yield the right of way.

The injured motorist was airlifted to the hospital and said he suffered a brain hemorrhage and a displaced right femur fracture that required multiple surgical procedures, as well as fractured ribs, facial lacerations and scarring, and a knee injury. The driver of the Lexus said he had about $230,000 in medical damages, $34,000 in lost wages, property damages, as well as mental emotional and physical pain and suffering and anguish. The plaintiff also said that he suffers significant and likely long-lasting mental deficits which he believes are the result of the brain injury from the crash.

Defendant Ask Court to Help get Independent Medical Examination of Plaintiff

The defendant trucking company repeatedly asked the Court to help is secure an independent medical examination (IME) of the plaintiff.

An IME is an evaluation of an injured party by a third party, who is an independent medical professional. The idea of an IME is that an independent physician will render an unbiased opinion on the injury. The inherent problem is that the the “independent physician” is getting paid by the defense lawyer.  Think about it–the defense is PAYING someone which automatically shows the inherent flaw in calling it “independent”.

An insurance company or opposing party may request an IME because they disagree with a decision by a patient’s treating doctor about the individuals’ medical treatment or the extent of any permanent disability.  Often, the real reason is that the defense i.e. the insurance company wants someone they feel will side with them and minimize the victim’s injuries. A good Atlanta personal injury lawyer Atlanta residents trust will often try and fight the IME or set parameters on how the IME can be governed.

In this case, the trucking company asked that the Court order three independent medical examinations to be conducted.

Judge Says Court Rules Allow IME

U.S. Magistrate Christopher L. Ray wrote that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 35 allows a “court where the action is pending [to] order a physical or mental examination by a suitably licensed or certified examiner.”

Judge Ray explains that “a plaintiff in a negligence action who asserts mental or physical injury… places that mental or physical injury clearly in controversy and provides the defendant with good cause for an examination to determine the existence and extent of such asserted injury,” citing a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Judge Ray also opined that the IME process eliminates the need for a defendant to provide evidence at cross-examination as use of their own expert testimony is a well-recognized and reasonable way of disputing a plaintiff’s claim and testimony. Moreover, “an examination by that expert is necessary to form a meaningful opinion,” quoting Massey v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, a 2013 case from the Middle District of Georgia.

Plaintiff Placed Mental and Physical Condition in Controversy, Defendant Claim

The trucking company argued that the plaintiff placed his mental and physical condition at issue by claiming that he suffered significant trauma as a result of a closed head brain injury. He offered several, non-treating physicians as experts who were to testify in support of his claims of permanent physical and neurological damages. The trucking company said that that the plaintiff intends to rely on these experts, who were able to conduct medical exams, not only to support his catastrophic damage claims but to use them as the primary ground to attack the conclusions of the trucking company’s experts.

The trucking company argued that some of the injuries the plaintiff claimed were caused by the accident were from pre-existing conditions or don’t appear in any medical treatment records after the accident but prior to the court case. The trucking company argued it would be highly prejudicial to allow the plaintiff to bring forth experts who’d examined him but not allow that same opportunity from the trucking company. In support, the trucking company cited numerous examples of the plaintiff challenging their experts and their opinions specifically because those experts hadn’t examined the plaintiff.

The plaintiff held that the trucking company already has access to voluminous medical records and deposition testimony which should be more than sufficient for their experts to render opinions.

However, Judge Ray stated that the trucking company didn’t unduly delay their request and that Rule 35 doesn’t set a hard deadline for filing a motion for an IME. The judge noted that although the request for an IME came late in this proceeding, it still came before the deadline for the trucking company’s expert witness reports. So, the plaintiff may complain about the delay, but that delay is insufficient cause the Court to deny an IME.

Judge Gives Instructions for the IME

Again, Judge Ray found that the plaintiff has placed his physical and mental circumstances at issue by asserting significant injuries related to closed head brain trauma. The judge said the plaintiff can’t “eat his cake and have it too.” He can’t simultaneously argue that the trucking company’s expert testimony is both complete from review of the medical records and argue that those experts’ testimony should be stricken because they have not examined the plaintiff.

In addition, the judge noted “that there is more than a modicum of inconsistency between the plaintiff’s allegations of injuries, the medical records his treating physicians provided, and the medical information the various experts who examined him provided.” As such, the trucking company was within its rights to request an IME to address these inconsistencies, provide their experts with the necessary information they require, and obtain what the plaintiff has already obtained for himself—an independent evaluation of the plaintiff.

But Judge Ray said that the appropriate terms of how the IME is to be conducted are more difficult to establish. The trucking company gave limited detail as to the scope of the examinations they expect the experts to conduct. “Rule 35 requires more,” the judge ruled. Thus, the trucking company was ordered to provide greater detail of the testing their examining physicians will conduct in compliance with Rule 35.

The trucking company’s Motion for an Independent Medical Examination was granted. Castle-Foster v. Cintas Corp. No. 2, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28145 *; 2021 WL 601877 (S.D. Ga. February 16, 2021).

Contact Tobin Injury Law

The results of an IME can have a significant effect on your case. You should work with an experienced Atlanta truck accident attorney if you’ve suffered serious injuries in a truck accident. An experienced Atlanta truck accident attorney at Tobin Injury Law knows how to interpret an IME and use the report to help you get the compensation you deserve.

Contact Tobin Injury Law, and we will work to get you the compensation you deserve, including compensation for property damage. With our experience and skills, we know what to look for when suing a trucking company.

You can contact an experienced Atlanta accident lawyer 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 404-JUSTICE (404-587-8423) or using our online contact form. Tobin Injury Law offers free consultations and will be glad to answer your questions.