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What is a Defense Medical Exam?

What is a Defense Medical Exam?

After a personal injury lawsuit is filed, both sides have an opportunity to discover information from one another in preparation for trial. CA Code of Civil Procedure section 2032.220 (part of the Civil Discovery Act of 1986) allows defendants to select any doctor they like to examine the injured plaintiff, as long as the examination is not painful, protracted, or intrusive; and as long as the examination takes place within 75 miles of the plaintiff's residence. The purpose of the examination is for the defense-hired doctor to discover information about the plaintiff so that the doctor can give an opinion in court.

In nearly every personal injury case that gets to the discovery phase, the defense is funded and coordinated by the defendant's insurance company. The insurance company, which is in the business of collecting premiums and paying as little as possible in claims (thereby making a profit), often chooses doctors that give conservative opinions about plaintiffs' injuries. As the illustration above suggests, many insurance-company-selected doctors are repeat players who earn lots of money opining that injured plaintiffs are not injured and that, even if they are injured, it is not the defendant's fault.

Defense lawyers often refer to the physical examination as an "Independent Medical Exam" or "IME," even though the word independent is nowhere to be found in Code section 2032.220. The word independent implies that the examiner was appointed by the court or was mutually agreed upon by the plaintiff and the defense. Use of the word independent is therefore misleading and improper since the doctor is selected solely by the defense and is expected to give an opinion in support of the defense. If the IME acronym is to be used, then it should be understood to mean "Insurance Medical Exam." However, since personal injury lawyers are not allowed to use the word insurance before the jury (see Neumann v. Bishop), the proper term is "Defense Medical Exam" or "DME."

If you or a loved one is injured due to someone else's carelessness, it is important to find a qualified personal injury lawyer who can reveal that the defense examiner is not independent or impartial on cross-examination. Otherwise, a defense examiner can make even the most obvious injuries seem unlikely or made-up. Some defense examiners are so good at "washing out" a plaintiff's injuries that they are hired over and over again by the same insurance companies to give the same opinions, and they make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year doing it. The lawyers at Effres & Associates have developed proven strategies to expose the "hired gun" examiners and their biases, so that juries are not fooled by bought and paid for opinions meant to enrich the examiners and the insurance companies that hire them.