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Personal injury attorney advice on “independent” medical examiners in Michigan

August 26, 2010 by Steven M. Gursten

Dr. Mary Kneiser’s IME lawsuit is strong example of independent medical examiner abuse

This is the last post in my mini series of blogs on independent medical examiners. Mary Kneiser is a busy IME doctor, and has been for many years. Dr. Kneiser has been hired by auto insurance companies and personal injury defense law firms to do one time “examinations” of injured plaintiffs, write reports and testify. Ask any experienced personal injury attorney about her, and you will get an earful.

Now, public documents available from Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit from a lawsuit between Dr. Kneiser and one of the larger Detroit defense law firms that had hired her in the past, makes for some very interesting reading on just how profitable the IME business has been for this well-known Michigan insurance medical examiner. The documents from this lawsuit also provide a compelling reason for the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) to act on MCL 500.2252. Now.

In her lawsuit, Dr. Kneiser was retained by a large and well-respected defense law firm in a very significant personal injury attendant care case. The case was filed in federal court.

In federal court, each party to a lawsuit must make mandatory expert disclosures and file with the court how often the expert they have retained has testified as an expert. Dr. Mary Kneiser, however, refused to disclose this information. The law firm that hired her writes that she refused because to disclose this information would ruin her “extremely profitable expert witness/IME business,” (according to the defense law firm’s case evaluation summary).

Discovery has revealed that Dr. Kneiser has testified 300 or more times in only four years, and 99 percent of this testimony was for defendants in personal injury lawsuits. Dr. Kneiser refused to disclose this information because “if word got out on the street that she was such a biased, active expert witness, her lucrative business would dry up” again, according to the case evaluation package filed by this defense law firm.

IME lessons for Michigan personal injury attorneys

There are important lessons here for all personal injury attorneys. First, Dr. Kneiser and most IME doctors are routinely asked how often they testify and how much they make (See how much the notorious IME Dr. John Baker and Dr. Manfred Griffenstein have testified). This information is important to show bias. These doctors know it, and instead of answering truthfully, the usual response is an “I don’t know.” This is almost always a lie, but rarely do personal injury attorneys aggressively follow up to get this information. It is up to the personal injury attorney to get this information by issuing subpoenas for 1099s and other payments from the various auto insurance companies and defense lawyers and law firms that hire these notorious IME doctors .

One personal example. Some years ago, another notorious defense neurologist, Dr. Leonard Sahn, told me under cross-examination that he had “no idea” how much money he was making performing defense exams and IMEs for various insurance companies. After our deposition, I issued subpoenas to Dr. Sahn. It turned out Dr. Sahn was making $500,000 a year, just performing these one-time exams on behalf of defendants in personal injury lawsuits.

Independent medical exams are a game, and a perniciously evil one at that. These IME doctors make vast amounts of money, testifying 99 percent of the time on behalf of the defense. They almost always minimize the personal injuries or damages to the plaintiff based upon one-time,15-minute exams.

If these issues of bias are not exposed, then a jury may actually mitigate the damages and compensation that your client deserves, especially when many IME doctors write typically nasty reports ripping apart injured clients and saying there is nothing wrong with them.

If you are a personal injury lawyer in Michigan, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about this either. IMEs are a big part of how defendants and insurance companies defend lawsuits here. But since this state has no bad faith or punitive damages to protect car accident victims, these IME doctors are, if anything, more outlandish than in most other states. And after McCormick v. Carrier, the main insurance company defense strategy seems to be to turn to IMEs now more aggressively than ever – so they can find “nothing wrong” with seriously injured accident victims.

One hope remains for restoring fairness – OFIR, act now on the Rule 500.2522

When doctors like Mary Kneiser refuse to comply with mandatory federal court discovery and disclose how often they testify and for which side in a lawsuit, because to do so “would ruin her “extremely profitable expert witness/IME business,” then we have a serious problem. Mary Kneiser is more representative than not of many of the IME doctors in this state – considering the number of IME exams and how heavily she is used by the insurance defense industry to mitigate and minimize claims. But juries do not know this, and it is up to us to explain just how unfair these one-time, partisan insurance defense doctors can be in wrecking innocent people’s one chance to a fair and just car accident lawsuit.

Oh, and for any Michigan personal injury attorney out there who has a deposition coming up with Dr. Kneiser, run down to Wayne County one day at lunch and pull the court file on her IME lawsuit.

It makes for interesting reading.

Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers in serious car and truck accident injury cases and auto insurance no-fault litigation. Michigan Auto Law has received the largest reported jury verdict for a car accident case in Michigan in six of the past nine years, including 2009, according to published reports.

Related information:

Your Michigan No-Fault insurance rights

Michigan auto insurance claims adjuster tactics

Why the insurance company in Michigan thinks we’re really dumb

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling auto accident cases and No-Fault insurance law throughout the entire state. We have helped countless personal injury victims recover all of the No-Fault insurance benefits they’re entitled to, and we can do the same for you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with an insurance lawyer.

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