One of the issues I struggle with is the occasional client who expects a certain monetary outcome from his/her case based on what a friend or family got from another unrelated personal injury case 5 or 10 years ago. They'll say, "Well, I was talking to my friend Bob and he got $35,000 for his personal injury case. He barely had a scratch on his car. How come I'm not getting $35,000?" Or they will say, "My friend Suzie told me she got $60,000 for her personal injury and she never even went to the doctor!" You are going to get a lot of input and "advice" from friends and family members, and that may affect your expectations. However, trust me when I tell you that every case is unique in many ways. Also, many other factors affect the "value" of your case. You can't expect to get what Aunt Martha (who lives in New York) got on her injury claim. Factors such as age, jurisdiction, the adjuster assigned to your case, residual injury, amount of property damage, the current economic climate, and much more can affect your case. Comparing your result to the results of others is a futile exercise.
If you are alleging a serious injury, especially one with residual effects, there may come a point in your case when the insurance company defending the matter (or their lawyer) insists on an "Independent Medical Examination." This demand also usually occurs if you are demanding a great deal of money. Usually, if your demand is low, they won't bother spending the money. It costs an insurance company about $2500 to $5000 to hire a doctor to conduct this exam, so they usually incur the cost if they think it's necessary.
Basically, the defense is entitled to have "their" doctor examine you and provide an opinion. Usually, this doctor isn't really "independent" because he/she is hired by the defense. Many of them NEVER find anything wrong with a plaintiff. Surprise! I know this because I used to work for the insurance companies as a defense lawyer. I know some "defense" doctors who almost NEVER find anything wrong with the plaintiff. There was one doctor some insurance adjusters would encourage me to use because it was basically a foregone conclusion his report would favor the defense. Of course, I tried to stay away from such one-sided doctors.
One doctor we often used when I worked for the insurance companies routinely made over $1 million per year from "independent medical examinations." It's unfortunate, but do you really think the insurance companies will keep using a doctor unless the doctor "usually" supports their desired outcome?
In my current cases representing folks who have been injured in serious accidents, I don't really need to see the defense doctor's report. I can pretty much guess what's in the report. Sometimes, the insurance companies will hire a more neutral doctor - one that occasionally agrees that plaintiff was actually hurt and the insurance company should settle. If that happens, count your lucky stars!
If you want to learn more about independent medical examinations and their use, feel free to call my office for more information.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,