The So-Called "Independent Medical Exam"...One Judge Has Finally Had Enough

By Mark T. Freeley, Esq. (Open Post)August 6, 2013 at 7:40am

If you have ever been injured and received medical treatment under No-Fault or Workers' Compensation or have ever brought a lawsuit, you most likely have had the pleasure of attending an "Independent Medical Exam". Theses exams are scheduled at the request of the No-Fault or Workers' Compensation insurance companies that are paying for your necessary medical treatment due to injuries sustained in a car accident or in a work related accident. If you were injured due to the fault of another and you brought a lawsuit, you would also be examined by a physician chosen by the insurance company that insured the responsible party.
The results of these so-called "Independent Medical Exams" have a very real effect upon the injured person that is examined by these physicians. In the areas of No-Fault and Workers' Compensation , these exams allegedly will determine if you require additional medical treatment to recover from your injuries or if you are able to return to work. Based upon the opinions of these "Independent" examining physicians, the involved insurance companies will deny paying for future medical treatment and/or refuse to continue to pay your loss of wages. This is regardless of whether your treating physician feels that you require additional treatment or are ready to return to work. In the lawsuit arena, the insurance companies rely upon these exams to argue that accident victims are not that injured, to justify making smaller, unfair settlement offers. If the case does not settle, the insurance company then hires these doctors to come to court to tell the jury that the person bringing the lawsuit is fine. The problem is that these medical exams are clearly not that "independent" at all. The involved physicians are hand picked by the insurance companies and have an incentive to opine that the injuries sustained by the person being examined have "fully resolved", because by doing so they are likely to continue to be hired to perform these exams. This is why over the last 20 years I have continued to see the very same physicians examining my clients time and time again, almost always writing the same boilerplate report with the same opinion, despite the severity of the involved injuries. Of course there are some physicians that from time to time admit that someone actually sustained some type of permanent injury, but this is a relatively rare occurrence. However, one judge has finally had enough of at least one of these regulars coming into his courtroom with their less than honest opinions, and hopefully this will become a trend for other judges to follow. Recently New York State Supreme Court Justice Duane Hart unsealed the testimony of Dr.Michael J. Katz showing false testimony by this physician who was conducting up to 1,000 "Independent Medical Exams" per year. Dr.Katz is an orthopedist frequently hired by insurance companies to defend personal injury cases. He testified that he may earn over a million dollars a year just from his medical-legal practice. In a recent case he testified that he likely examined the plaintiff (the injured person bringing the lawsuit) for 10-20 minutes. However, a video revealed that he only spent one minute and 56 seconds on his exam. Judge Hart said, "He testified as to findings that he obviously could not have had in a minute and 56 seconds." He went on to say, "This is clearly the most blatant example of a doctor getting up there and just not telling the truth." "It is the carriers and Dr.Katz that I would love to sanction, but I can't do that" as sanctions are restricted by the court rules to parties and their attorneys. "You can probably hear my teeth grinding", Justice Hart said. Justice Hart asked the attorneys: " How do I stop carriers from putting people like Dr.Katz on the stand and causing the state to spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying a case and putting a lying witness on the stand? How do people like me, people in this building, people that wear black robes send a message to them that they cannot condone perjury? Unfortunately ,Dr.Katz is still conducting these exams and has refused to retire from performing them. Justice Hart offered him the option of bowing out of the business and he declined. The matter may be sent to the District Attorney's office to investigate a perjury charge. In light of the fact that Dr.Katz is still performing these exams Justice Hart said, " It is like a wound festering. Every time he does another IME (Independent Medical Exam). When is it going to stop? He is making 7 figures a year doing IMEs. Then he comes to my part and lies." Dr.Katz is not alone, fellow orthopedist, Dr.Robert Israel was also recently sanctioned for his conduct in medical-legal exams of which he was performing up to 1,500 per year. The most unjust part of all of this, is the impact upon all of the people who were legitimately injured and denied benefits or who received a reduced jury verdict based upon these "Independent" quickie exams that are used as a means of denying benefits, offering low settlements, and minimizing jury verdicts.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq. -