In Michigan, Independent Medical Examiners Are Anything But
Our auto accident attorneys frequently help victims of car accidents and truck accidents after they’ve been “cut-off” by their own no-fault insurance companies. After someone has been in a crash, it’s usually a matter of time before an insurance company tries to stop paying medical bills and lost wages and sets up a so-called “independent” medical exam, or IME for short. When this happens, you will be required by the language of your insurance policy to see a doctor who was handpicked and hired by your insurance company.
But who exactly are these IME doctors you are being sent to?
In reality, IME doctors are getting paid a fortune to find nothing wrong with their insureds. In turn, vital insurance benefits are terminated, saving insurance companies millions of dollars. Recent discovery has shown that State Farm insurance alone has used one Michigan IME, Dr. Edward Trachtman, approximately 460 times in the course of about five years.
The problem, as the New York Times reported in its recent story “Exams of Injured Workers Fuel Mistrust,” is exemplified by a quote from one IME, Dr. Hershel Samuels: “If you did a truly pure report, you’d be out on your ears and the insurers wouldn’t pay for it. You have to give them what they want, or you’re in Florida. That’s the game, baby.”
Samuels was videotaped stating his patient had definite back and neck injuries. But in the proceeding report submitted to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, Samuels cleared the patient for work, contending he had no recent injury at all.
Another notorious Michigan IME doctor is John Baker, who frequently does exams for insurance companies that have clients with traumatic brain injuries. Yet in one recent Michigan worker’s compensation opinion, Sunitha Atluri v. Northville Regional Psychiatric Hospital, a judge found Dr. Baker’s diagnosis to be “worthless” and called him a “hired gun” for the self-insured hospital.
Dr. Baker’s partner, Dr. Manfred Greiffenstein, testified live in one of my recent jury trials. After saying my client did not have TBI, and that he was consumed with his injuries (my client had already had eight surgeries), Dr. Greiffenstein admitted under oath that he was not treating any current patient for traumatic brain injury and had not treated a patient for brain injury in more than a decade. He also admitted he was hired as an IME by every insurance company, workers compensation carrier and defense insurance law firm in town.
These are some of the doctors insurance companies are using to determine whether they should keep paying insurance benefits or not to people injured in car accidents!
Some of the other frequent Michigan IME doctors who turned up in the State Farm discovery include:
o Steven Geiringer, M.D., 330 insurance claimant patients
o Leonard Sahn, M.D., 315 insurance claimant patients
o Manfred Greiffenstein, Ph. D., 267 insurance claimant patients
o Steven Boodin, M.D., 231 insurance claimant patients
o Harvey Ager, M.D., 91 insurance claimant patients
o Marilyn Lantor, RN, 88 insurance claimant patients
Please see the attached discovery document from the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division for more information about these State Farm IME doctors. Keep in mind this document only covers one insurance company. If you add up how many IME exams these doctors are doing for all of the other insurance companies, workers compensation carriers and defense law firms in Michigan, the fortune they’re making is mind boggling.
In the future, I plan to blog much more about this topic. I also plan on including excerpts from some of my favorite cross examinations, including the aforementioned Dr. Greiffenstein. Meanwhile, this should highlight the real problem so many innocent injured people have in Michigan. Because Michigan does not have insurance bad faith laws, you have to go to one of these doctors after your car crash when your no-fault insurance company sends you. And the odds are overwhelming that your auto insurance benefits will be halted — regardless of how serious your personal injuries are.
This sham is yet another reason Michigan so desperately needs bad faith laws — to keep insurance company adjusters from knowingly using notorious IMEs to deny injuries and then discontinue insurance benefits.
If your auto insurance benefits have been cut off, we may be able to help. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with a no-fault insurance lawyer. Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Southfield, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. For more information, check out our law firm quick facts.
– Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Waldo Jaquith