During the course of your personal injury claim you will be asked to attend a
medical examination both on behalf of your Solicitor and on behalf of the insurance company.
Purpose of medico-legal examination
The purpose of the medical examination is for a suitably qualified doctor to provide an opinion in relation to your injury in respect of the following:
1. What injury or medical condition you have as a result of the injury.
2. The cause of that injury or medical condition.
3. If an accident or the nature of your work has aggravated some underlying condition.
4. The prognosis for your injury, that is, what in the future is likely to happen?
5. Your ability to work as a result of the injury.
The examination is intended to be an independent and honest assessment of your injury and is to be impartial as possible.
Who arranges the examination?
The examination can be arranged by usually one of the three parties to a legal case as follows:
1. Your solicitor
2. The insurance company or its solicitor
3. An independent body such as the Workers Compensation Commission or the Motor
Before attending a doctor you should make sure you note who has arranged the examination and if you are unsure you should ask your solicitor.
Once the examination is complete a report will be sent from the doctor who examined you to the person who has arranged the examination. That person will also usually pay for the cost of the doctor’s report. The report is confidential. The person who receives the report does not need to provide a copy of the report to anyone else or even you.
The doctor is usually a specialist in the area most relevant to the injury you have sustained such as an Orthopedic Specialist for a knee or back injury. The doctor is also usually a consultant which means they have generally retired from private practice. Usually the doctor only prepares medico-legal reports and no longer treats any patients.
You are entitled to know the precise qualifications and specialty of the doctor who examines you.
The doctor is not employed by the legal firm or the insurance company and they are usually called "Independent Doctors". Doctors are however not always independent. A doctor should say exactly what he thinks about your injury or condition based on his medical opinion rather than being supportive for one side of the legal case or another.
You are not seeing the doctor as his/her patient, the doctor is not able to give you advice about your medical problems. The doctor also cannot give you any treatment. Any advice in relation to your condition or treatment should be obtained from your own medical practitioners and not from a medico-legal doctor.
What should I take to the appointment?
You should ensure you have the correct appointment date, time and address. A failure to attend an appointment usually results in a cancellation fee of a few hundred dollars which you will be required to pay. If you need an interpreter you should request one from your Solicitor or ask your Solicitor to ensure that an interpreter has been arranged by the insurance company.
You need to take with you all x-rays, scans and all other tests that you have had relevant to your condition so a thorough assessment can be made by the doctor.
What will happen at the examination?
The examining doctor will introduce himself and by agreement may allow you to have a friend or relative with you during the examination. That person should not interrupt or interfere with the examination.
The doctor will ask a number of questions about your injury or accident and the circumstances that caused it. He or she will ask you about your treatment and how the injury affects you now. He or she may ask you about your past medical history, employment history and lifestyle.
The doctor will carry out a physical examination, both in respect of the injured parts of your body but also to other body parts as well.
If the doctor asks you to do something that will cause pain then please mention this to the doctor. You are supposed to co-operate with the doctor however you do not need to be in pain.
If the doctor asks you a question that you do not wish to answer then you may say so. If the doctor wishes to examine you and you do not agree you may also refuse. Any refusal however will be mentioned in the medical report.
The doctor should carry out the examination in a respectful manner and not hurt you.
How long will it take?
Normally a medico-legal examination takes between half an hour to one hour. Some examinations can however be completed in a shorter period of time depending on what the doctor has been asked to assess.
The doctor will ask you questions which he/she considers relevant and will aim to let you go as soon as possible.
If you believe the doctor has not undertaken a thorough assessment then you should contact your Solicitor to discuss.
What if there are problems during the examination?
If you have any questions during the examination you should ask the doctor.
If the doctor causes you pain or asks inappropriate questions then you should also ask the doctor to refrain from doing so and if you consider it appropriate refuse to answer the question. You should advise your Solicitor immediately if this occurs.
If you believe there is a complete breakdown in your relationship with the doctor then you may say so and you have the right to leave the examination. If you leave the examination you may be liable for the cost of the examination.
You will be asked to attend a number of doctors during your claim. You should be polite, honest and straight forward. Once the examination is concluded the doctor will forward a copy of the report to whoever arranged the examination. This usually takes around two weeks but can take longer.
If the appointment was arranged by your Solicitor then once he/she receives the report he/she should contact you and forward a copy of the report to you to discuss further.
If the appointment was arranged by an insurance company then you may or may not get to see the report.
If you have any further questions regarding medico-legal examinations please do not hesitate to contact your Solicitor.