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Court Exercises Authority to Require Medical Examinations in Personal Injury Case

When a person files a personal injury case to recover damages for physical and/or medical injuries, a court either at the state or federal level has the authority to order the plaintiff to undergo a physical or mental examination. The court must be asked to order such examination by one of the defendants in the case. And the court must find that there is good cause for such examination and that it bears on an issue that is "in controversy". A recent federal case pending in New Mexico provides a recent example.


In the case of Hatchett v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 13-cv-1183 MCA/SMV (Dist. Ct, D. New Mexico 2014), the United States District Court issued an order from Magistrate Judge Stephan M. Vidmar granting such a motion made by the Defendant in the case. The magistrate judge relied on the fact that the Plaintiff put the issue of the accident's effect on his physical and mental health into controversy by requesting damages for physical and mental injuries sustained as a result of the vehicle accident.  The Court found that this gave the Defendant "good cause" to have such an examination conducted. It also rejected the argument by the Plaintiff that the submission of medical reports by the Plaintiff showing treatment and diagnoses made by Plaintiff's doctors is a sufficient substitute for an examination made by a different physician of the Defendant's choice.


Accordingly, the Plaintiff will be required to appear at a time and place specified by the Court to submit to a physical and mental examination. The Court does impose some limits on the examination. The doctor cannot perform any invasive treatments on the Plaintiff. Nor can any third party or attorney be present at the examination. Once the doctor(s) performing the exam writes a report on the exam's findings, the report must be submitted to attorneys for both sides at the same time.


None of this means that this examination will take any precedence over examinations done by the Plaintiff's own doctors. It is possible this examination will yield results not much different than the ones presented by the Plaintiff. But even if that is not the case, the merit and validity of the conclusions of the different medical experts can be challenged and argued by attorneys for the parties using the same techniques of cross-examination and impeachment they use to litigate most issues in a case.


The attorneys at Giddens & Gatton Law, PC represent individuals in personal injury suits in New Mexico. Giddens & Gatton Law, PC is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm's website at for more information

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