Your lawyer can hire a doctor to perform a separate examination and report.
There are a couple scary things about insurance doctors. The obvious one is that the insurance company is paying them to come up with an opinion that hurts your case. But another problem is that it is very easy to find yourself in a position where you have no effective answer to what the insurance doctor says.
When a personal injury lawsuit goes to trial, the injured person has to have a doctor testify that the accident caused their injury. If you want the jury to reimburse you for a permanent injury, the doctor also has to describe the injury and say that it is permanent.
For years, if a person was injured, their lawyer would contact their own treating doctor to testify at trial as to both causation and permanency.
Then the insurance company would have the person examined by a doctor it chose. The insurance doctor would examine the injured person and their treatment records, and write a report stating whether the injury was caused by the accident, and whether it was permanent.
Despite the obvious problem – insurance doctors frequently became “hired guns” – the system worked as well as you could expect it to. Then a couple things happened.
First, it became harder and harder to get the attention of treating doctors. This was partly because, afraid of lawsuits, they stopped trusting lawyers. Also, their growing patient load made it harder for them to concentrate on the details of the lawsuit. They cared more about treating their patients. And many specialists became reluctant to give opinions on disability or impairment; they saw their job as treatment, not evaluation.
At the same time, the defense doctors became more and more geared toward testifying. In trial, the insurance lawyer would point out that the insurance doctor had reviewed all of the injured person’s medical records, including records that the treating doctor had never heard of. (The treating doctor had not reviewed all the records because he or she had treated the patient based on what they told him; this was enough.)
The result was that the defense doctor appeared to the jury as a very thorough and highly trained investigator, familiar with all of the facts of the case. The treating doctor, on the other hand, came across as a well meaning individual naïve enough to believe whatever his patient told him, and unwilling to do things that would help the jury – like talk about impairment.
There is an answer for this. The plaintiff – through his attorney – can hire his own independent doctor to review all the records and render an opinion. And that doctor – assuming he is qualified – is usually more than willing to evaluate the injury, and give an opinion on the extent of impairment.
An independent doctor might not be necessary if the treating physician is an effective witness, or if causation or permanency are unlikely to be questioned. An independent doctor will charge for his time, of course; but if you need him, he is worth it.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. I have used independent evaluations by doctors to get my client’s story across. If you want to talk about your options in presenting your case, speak with an experienced accident lawyer – call me at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.