Doctor Shoppping By ICBC Not Allowed

If you’re hurt in a car crash, you should see your doctor. And if you can prove the accident wasn’t your fault, you’ll likely be able to get compensation for your injuries from the person at fault or their insurer, usually ICBC.

How much compensation? That depends on how badly you were hurt. The opinions of medical experts on the nature of the injuries and your future prospects of recovery are crucial in helping the court decide on what compensation it should award for loss of life enjoyment (and any other losses like costs of future care). They’re also important in helping your lawyers trying to settle your case for fair compensation.

Under the terms of your policy, ICBC has the right to get your brief doctor’s report – despite any doctor-patient confidentiality and even if you don’t consent. If you’ve gone to court for compensation, ICBC also has the right to have you submit to one or more “independent” medical examinations by physicians of its choice (where the defendant in your lawsuit is insured and defended in court by ICBC, as is usually the case).

That’s because in your lawsuit, you will normally present your doctor’s medical opinion(s) as evidence of the diagnosis of your injuries and the prognosis for your recovery. To “level the playing field” and counter any perceived favourable bias, ICBC is allowed to have its own medical examination(s) conducted for those purposes too.

Doctors and medical professionals for both sides are supposed to be impartial. They’re supposed to offer expert opinions that help the court. And they’re not supposed to be advocates for “their” side. Still, the amounts at stake in accident injury cases may be huge – and when one side oversteps the aims of the rules, the court will step in to prevent unfairness.

Here’s one recent example. A car crash victim who was badly hurt and suffered various injuries including a traumatic brain injury underwent two “independent” medical examinations by ICBC-selected medical experts, including a psychiatrist. ICBC then wanted a neurologist to do a third “independent”exam, without giving the victim the reports from the first two examinations. When the victim’s lawyers said “no,” ICBC applied for a court order requiring this third examination.

The accident victim’s lawyers argued in court that another report for ICBC was excessive. They pointed out that ICBC hadn’t handed over the reports from the first two independent medical exams and suggested that ICBC was “doctor-shopping” for a more favourable medical expert opinion. ICBC’s court application was rejected, and ICBC wasn’t allowed the third medical exam.

What medical exams are appropriate – and what can be demanded and what can be refused – isn’t straightforward. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, make sure you get legal help early on from an experienced personal injury lawyer who can make sure your legal rights are protected.

This column has been written by Janice Mucalov LL.B as part of “You And The Law”. It provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Names of the parties in reported cases have been changed or removed to protect their identity. Lawyer Janice Mucalov is an award-winning legal writer.

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