Why do I have to go to so many appointments after my car accident?
A large part of the evidence in your case comes from medical charts, employer files, government documents, and the testimony you give at Discovery. This evidence, however, is raw data regarding your life and health before and since the accident. From a legal perspective, the most important consideration is how the accident has affected your life and how it will affect you in the future. Your lawyer does not have a crystal ball, so this is where the experts come in. Here are a few of the experts your lawyer may hire and what purpose is served by each.
1. Independent Medical Examiner – This will be a physician who has not treated you in the past. He or she might be a pain specialist, a psychiatrist, or an orthopedic surgeon, depending on the nature of your injuries. This appointment would involve a physical examination and a conversation, and could last 1-2 hours. The physician would then write a report, answering specific questions posed by your lawyer regarding your injuries, diagnosis, recommended treatments, and prognosis for further rehabilitation.
2. Defendant’s Medical Examiner – This evaluation would be much like the one described above, except that this physician would be hired by the defendant. While ideally any independent physician would be objective and fair, this person will have been hired by someone trying to disprove your case. Whether you find that he or she is perfectly pleasant and polite, or unpleasant and harsh, it is of utmost importance that you cooperate fully and answer all questions. Any resistance on your part could be used against you. If you spot any misinformation in the final report, bring it to your lawyer’s attention.
3. Functional Capacity Evaluation – This evaluation is done by an occupational therapist and/or a physiotherapist. It could be a physical evaluation or a cognitive evaluation if you have suffered a brain injury. It normally takes an entire day or two. The physical evaluation consists of lifting, bending, stretching and reaching, so wear comfortable clothing. The point of this evaluation is to determine whether you have restrictions with certain movements or activities. The assessor will then write a report in which he or she compares your physical or cognitive abilities to the demands of your employment and your life. For instance, if you had a physically demanding job which your injuries now prevent you from doing, this type of report will prove it scientifically.
4. Home Assessment – This assessment will take place in your home. It may be done by the occupational therapist who did your functional capacity evaluation. All elements of your home will be assessed to see which aspects cause you difficulty. The final report will make recommendations for modifications to your home or assistive devices that will allow you to do housework, hobbies, or take care of yourself in light of your injuries.
5. Vocational Assessment – If your injuries have affected your ability to work, a Vocational Assessment will thoroughly assess all of your past education, training and work experience and your aptitude for learning in order to predict what path your career would likely have taken if you had not suffered injuries and compare it to what jobs you are able to perform with your injuries. This is a dollars and cents report: if your earning potential has been cut in half because you can no longer work a lucrative job, it will allow for the calculation of your future lost wages.
6. Actuary – Once all the other evaluations have been conducted and their reports have been submitted, an actuary will calculate your loss over time. Because of elements like inflation, the services of this specialized professional are necessary to calculate what amount you should receive in today’s dollars. You will probably not have to meet with this individual, but may speak with him or her on the phone.
You will be happy to learn that your lawyer will likely finance the cost of each of these evaluations up front. Because of their specialization, they can be expensive. At the time of settlement negotiations, your lawyer will add these costs to the amount payable by the at-fault party, over and above all of your other heads of damages. While you will see these numbers on your final invoice, you will not be the one paying them. Undergoing all of these assessments can be time consuming, but it will be worth it to your case in the end.