Massachusetts Court Discusses Compulsory Medical Examinations in Personal Injury Cases

When a plaintiff files a civil lawsuit seeking damages for harm allegedly caused by an accident, the plaintiff places his or her health at issue. Thus, the defendant in the lawsuit is permitted to seek evidence regarding the plaintiff’s health prior to and after the accident, which can include examinations by a neutral third party. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what examinations a defendant is permitted to request in a case in which the plaintiff alleged injuries caused by a car accident. If you were injured in an accident caused by another party, it is advisable to speak to a zealous Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding what steps you may be able to take to protect your rights.

Factual History

It is reported that the plaintiff suffered injuries when she was riding as a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident. She subsequently sued the driver of the car for damages, alleging in part that she suffered a closed head injury due to the defendant’s negligent driving. Following the accident, the plaintiff had to be hospitalized three times for the management of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. She subsequently underwent an evaluation with a neuropsychologist who stated that her recent mental health symptoms were consistent with a traumatic brain injury.

Allegedly, the plaintiff also identified an expert who would testify as to the plaintiff’s loss of earnings due to the accident. The defendant moved to compel the plaintiff to undergo two separate independent evaluations, one by a neuropsychologist and one by a vocational expert. The plaintiff opposed the defendant’s motion, arguing that the defendant should rely on the evaluations produced by the plaintiff.

Compulsory Medical Examinations Under Massachusetts Law

Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, when there is a dispute over the mental or physical health of a party, the court may order the party to submit to an examination with a licensed physician or otherwise qualified person. A party moving to compel an examination under the Rules must show that there is a genuine dispute over the condition of the party opposing the motion and that there is good cause for ordering the examination that is sought.

Pleadings alone are adequate to meet the burden of proving a plaintiff’s condition is at issue when a plaintiff in a negligence case alleges physical or mental harm, however. Demonstrating good cause for an evaluation of a plaintiff’s mental health requires a defendant to show that the examination could reveal facts that are necessary to the defense of the plaintiff’s claims, and to the plaintiff’s cause of action.

In the subject case, the court found that as the plaintiff argued the accident caused her to suffer mental health issues, an examination with a neuropsychologist was necessary for the defendant to prepare a proper defense, and granted the defendant’s motion in that respect. The court declined to grant the defendant’s motion as to the vocational expert, however, finding that the defendant had not produced evidence demonstrating good cause for allowing the examination.

Meet with a Dedicated Massachusetts Attorney

If you were injured in a car accident, you might be able to recover damages from the party that caused the accident and should meet with an attorney to discuss your options. The dedicated Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan take pride in helping injured people seek recourse for their harm, and if you engage our services, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us at 508-822-6600 or via our online form to set up a meeting.