It is common in a personal injury case for the Defendant insurance company to have the personal injury victim submit to a medical examination at the hands of a doctor or doctors of the insurance company’s choosing, usually a doctor from Edmonton or Calgary. The Defendant insurance company and their counsel like to refer to these examinations as an “Independent Medical Examination (IME)”. I have long taken issue with this characterization as of course it is not independent, it is a “Defence Medical Examination (DME)” by a doctor chosen by the Defendant’s lawyer and paid for by the Defendant insurance company, not Alberta Health.
Independent Medical Examination in Alberta
I was pleased to read in a recent decision of the Edmonton, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench from Master L.A. Smart in the case Lai v. Henry, 2013 ABQB 696 originating out of Fort McMurray, Alberta wherein Master Smart wrote, “Although these examinations are often described as an Independent Medical Examination (IME), they are anything but independent. These are one-shot exercises conducted in adversarial circumstances. The aim of the Defendant is to discredit the claim of the Plaintiff. Both Plaintiffs and Defendants hire experts with known biases in favor of their position although I hasten to add that I am not suggesting that these biases are other than a properly held position within acceptable standards established by their profession.”
It is gratifying to see the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench make direct comments about the senseless routine use of the phrase, “Independent Medical Examination” by Defendant’s counsel and insurance companies.
However, based on my trial experience over the years, I would go one step further than Master Smart and state that the experts often hired in litigation matters are so biased in favor of the party that hired them (some experts work only for one side exclusively), that I would not agree that the expert’s position is a, “properly held position within acceptable standards established by their profession”. Many of the expert doctors from Calgary and Edmonton have retired from active practice and consult only to the insurance industry in what amounts to a very lucrative post-retirement career. In other words, many of the experts hired are nothing more than “hired guns”. Thus, it is the job of top legal counsel to expose such biases and unsupported opinions through cross-examination. Unfortunately this makes litigation very costly and time consuming.
It would be better if the parties agreed to allow the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to make greater use of an existing rule which allows for the Court to order a true Independent Medical Examination as the expert is chosen by the Court and not by either of the parties.