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Premises Liability

Defense Medical Exams: What You Should Know

Doctor is diagnosing a patient

Defense medical exams are undertaken by doctors hired by the defendant to investigate and, possibly, undermine a plaintiff’s case. If the case does not settle, it is highly likely that the doctor conducting the medical exam will testify against the injured party.

Everything Is Observed

The doctor and her staff observe everything. They will note how the plaintiff exits his car, whether he has a limp, the shoes he is wearing, and how he gets up and off the examination table. Furthermore, the plaintiff agrees to an examination by a specific doctor for a specific examination. Therefore, if another doctor attempts to conduct the examination or asks to do a different examination, the plaintiff may refuse.

Reviewing the Accident and Medical History

While examining the injuries, the doctor will ask about the accident and how the injury occurred. He or she will also ask for medical history, whether the injuries occurred before and if so, when. These questions are not designed to assist the plaintiff but to investigate the circumstances of the injury. Plaintiffs undergoing a defense medical examination should not volunteer more information than necessary to answer the question.

However, that does not mean plaintiffs should conveniently forget information. For example, the doctor will have reviewed the plaintiff’s medical files; therefore, if the doctor asks about a previous traumatic injury that required a visit to the doctor or hospital – the plaintiff should admit to that injury and accident. Convenient lapses of memory also appear in the doctor’s report as examples of unreliability.

Conducting the Examination

The doctor may ask the plaintiff to turn his head, move his arms, bend his knees, etc., to determine the scope of the injury. The plaintiff should comply with the doctor’s instructions alert the physician to any pain. The doctor will generally ask questions that bolster the defense. Therefore, it is possible the doctor won’t ask the plaintiff about pain or restricted movement.

Be Specific, Be Truthful

The plaintiff should specifically discuss where he feels pain, the type of pain (e.g., sharp, dull, throbbing, piercing, etc.), and when he feels pain (or what movement causes the pain). For example, a bad answer is: “My leg hurts.” That is too generic, where on the leg, what type of pain, etc. A better answer is: “My knee hurts when I bend it, it is a sharp, knife-like intense pain.”

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