If an injury claim is large enough and complicated enough, eventually the insurer will require an “independent medical examination”. Injured people and their lawyers recognize this for what it is: a defence medical examination. The Rules of Court give a doctor hired by the insurance company the right to interview the accident and injury claimant, perform an examination and required necessary tests, and prepare a written report.
I was reminded of this because I received a newsletter from the Canadian Society of Medical Evaluators this week. This Society states that it seeks to provide members with opportunities to maintain professional standards, share knowledge and expertise, and promote their abilities as medical evaluators. The Society has a website at www.csme.org. The newsletter is a reminder that there is a small Canadian industry devoted to performing medical examinations for insurance companies. While it is fair enough to allow insurers an opportunity for medical evaluation, most experienced lawyers for injured people are jaded not to expect true independence from the examination.
The medical doctors or evaluators who are in demand and highly paid by the insurance companies are the ones who give them what they want – an expert argument that the injuries are not as severe as they may appear or were not caused by the accident.
The medical examiners who are truly impartial and independent don’t last long in this industry. Some defence medical examiners are quite cynical about this process. However, the majority rationalize their activities for insurers on the basis that they can satisfy their responsibility of impartiality by putting forward a respectable argument, rather than by stating the impartial opinion they arrive at in the search for truth. That may not be what courts ideally want, but it is what they have to work with.