A Defense Medical Examination (DME) may be required during the process of pursuing your personal injury claim. Also known as an “Independent Medical Exam,” this type of examination is done by a physician or specialist hired by the defense to evaluate your condition in relation to your claims and potentially testify against you in court.
“Independent” Medical Examination
The Defense Medical Examination is the defense’s one shot to have you examined and obtain a medical witness against you. Therefore, do not be fooled if you hear the term “Independent Medical Examination.” It likely is not independent but is to be conducted by someone who is predisposed to the defense’s case. If the defense hires someone who does not see things from their perspective, they will have wasted their only chance to create an expert witness against you. Because of this, many defense attorneys hire the same doctors over and over again to give examinations and testimony who will tell the defense what they want to hear. The doctor’s report and testimony can be used against you in court or in settlement negotiations.
While some DME doctors are highly professional and will give you an accurate report, some know that they are being paid by the defense and may skew their reports. It is also important to keep in mind that the purpose of the DME is to obtain information and expert opinion for the defense, not to serve as a “second opinion” or provide medical treatment for you. It is a safe bet that you may not get a fair report, but it is important to let your lawyer handle the situation rather than simply refusing to comply.
After examining you and reviewing your medical records, the defense doctor will probably conclude one of the following:
- You were not injured in your accident
- You were not injured as seriously as your physician claims, and/or
- Your injuries and symptoms were caused by something else other than the accident
DME examiners will often attempt to discredit your injury by finding earlier accidents or injuries to which your injuries can be attributed. They could also simply state that your injuries are the result of the normal process of aging. DME examiners can even say that while they do not know exactly what caused your injury, they know it was not the accident.
Even though the DME is not really “independent,” you are still required to complete the process. Remember, if you have a legitimate claim you have nothing to hide or worry about.
What the DME Looks For
The DME doctor will most likely conduct a patient interview to learn the history of the accident and your injury. It is best to have a statement that you and your lawyer have prepared to give the doctor, ensuring nothing it missed. The DME will then conduct a medical examination. During the DME, the doctor will look for a variety of factors about the injury and the victim, including:
- Your Appearance – The doctor and staff will observe you the entire time you are at the facility, not only during the examination. They will watch how you stand, whether you have any difficulty walking or climbing onto the examination table and other tell-tale signs that you may not be injured. They will also look for any signs of distress while sitting, how you dress, your weight and personal hygiene, and anything else that could be relevant to your injury.
- Any Signs of Deception – The DME doctor will be on high alert for any signs of deception. They will be expected to report any impression they may have gotten that you are intentionally or unintentionally exaggerating any symptoms of the injury.
- Objective Manifestations of Injury – The doctor will typically review any medical records you have, including imaging studies like x-rays, MRI reports and CT scans to objectively measure damage to your body. The DME examiner will also evaluate and conclude if your symptoms of pain and discomfort are consistent with the injury.
- Subjective Manifestations of Injury – During the examination the doctor will probably perform tests that require you to move in certain ways or perform certain tasks so the doctor can measure any indications of pain, discomfort, sensitivity or insensitivity.
- Other Contributing Factors – The doctor will also inquire about other ailments or injuries you may have. They will also likely address any poor lifestyle choices, like smoking for example, that could contribute to the injury.
Once the examination is complete, the doctor will typically prepare at least one report for the case. The defense could also ask for a supplemental report on a specific issue.
What Should I Do During the Medical Examination?
Though you know you may not be getting a fair examination, it is still important to be honest, polite, and helpful during the DME examination. Although you know the doctor works for the defense, try to think of it as any other doctor’s appointment.
Here are some tips for making the best of your DME:
- Create a good first impression by arriving early and with all requested records
- If you can afford it, hire a nurse or other medical professional to accompany you to the examination to serve as a witness in court on your behalf if the examining doctor does not provide an accurate report. You can also bring a friend or spouse.
- Keep in mind that you are under observation at all times during the DME, including while sitting in the waiting room.
- Once the exam is complete, make written notes of what happened and give them to your lawyer. Include all relevant times, like when you arrived, when you were seen by the doctor, and how long it took. Record what was said and done. Your lawyer can use this information to cross-examine the doctor in court, if needed.
Talk With a Lawyer
If you have found yourself injured due to the negligence of another person, seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. There are many things to consider and do to properly prepare for a personal injury lawsuit. Do not attempt to do so alone. Rather, seek out the help of a personal injury lawyer who knows how to handle all aspects of the case, including the DME. Contact Demas Law Group, P.C., today.