Your rights and responsibilities during a personal injury defense medical exam

As often happens in personal injury lawsuits, the defendant in your case has requested that you submit to a physical examination by a doctor selected by the defendant (or its insurance company). The rules of civil procedure that govern your lawsuit provide for this type of “defense medical examination,” so you must comply with the defendant’s request and see this doctor.

Even though you do not have the right to refuse to submit to this examination, you do have other rights, as well as responsibilities, in relation to the defense medical exam in your personal injury lawsuit.

Your rights in relation to the defense medical examination

You have the right to be treated with respect.

The doctor you are seeing was hired by the defendant’s insurance company. Do not expect the doctor to take your side regarding your injury claims or to make any attempts to help you. You should expect, however, that the doctor will behave in a professional manner and will show you common courtesy and respect. If the doctor is disrespectful, or otherwise behaves unprofessionally, describe this conduct in a letter to your personal injury lawyer. Be specific as to the date, time and place of the occurrence, the name of the doctor, and what transpired.

You have the right to refuse:

  • To be x-rayed.
  • To have a CT scan, MRI, fMRI or blood work.
  • To be injected.
  • To have a rectal examination performed.
  • To be examined without a gown.
  • To be poked with a needle or pin such that it draws blood.

Your responsibilities during the defense medical examination

Do not provide the doctor with any documents unless your personal injury attorney has reviewed them. Answer only the questions you are asked. Do not volunteer information to the doctor. Do not discuss the liability issues of your personal injury case.

Be truthful.

Do not exaggerate your symptoms. It can only hurt your case. Be honest about what is bothering you, and what you can and cannot do. If you tell the defense doctor what you are capable of doing, he will be more likely to believe you when you tell him the things you have difficulty doing as a result of your accident injury. Exaggerating can hurt your case or even result in criminal charges (for insurance fraud) being filed against you.

Review the doctor’s report.

The defense doctor will not send you a copy of his report. If, however, the defense plans to call the doctor as a witness at trial, they must provide your personal injury attorney with a copy of the report. In that instance, your personal injury attorney will send the report to you to review. Note where and how the doctor’s conclusions may be incorrect or inaccurate. You will not be asked to review the report like a doctor; rather, your injury attorney will be interested in your thoughts as an injured patient. You can help by pointing out, for example, that the doctor quoted you incorrectly when he said you had left-leg pain because you told the doctor you had right-leg pain.