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Posted by Jeffrey Forbes on Nov 10, 2015 4:35:37 PM


Truck drivers and independent medical exams- what motor carriers need to know

The federal rules of civil procedure allow parties to request opponents undergo an Independent Medical Examination (IME) where the physical or mental health of the party-opponent is in question.  Courts often hesitate to grant independent medical examinations simply as a matter of course due to concerns that it will become a legal tactic to strong-arm and embarrass parties into settlement.  Therefore, they safeguard the 'in controversy' requirements of the F.R.C.P. Rule 35 and its similar state rules. 

About Independent Medical Examinations

Independent Medical Examinations are often used as a defense tactic in a lawsuit.  Defendants request IMEs to verify or debunk the nature and extent of a plaintiff's alleged injuries. The plaintiff is usually advised what to say during an IME by their lawyer. Because the purpose of the exam is not medical treatment, the doctor conducting the examination is not giving advice for pain management or course of treatment. The purpose is to provide an expert opinion of the plaintiff's injuries to the insurance company or entity requesting the IME.

Doctors will look for and note the general appearance of the plaintiff, look for signs of deception, will review existing medical records, perform tests as part of the examination to determine pain or injury, and will ask about previous injuries and lifestyle factors that would provide an alternate source of the injury or imparement. For these reasons, IMEs have not been considered a "Fair Report" or as being trully independent as the doctor is being compensated for their report from the IME. Plaintiffs historically did not look to have an IME conducted in personal injury lawsuits due to the perceived advantage for the defense.

Independent Medical Examinations Used In Personal Injury Cases By Plaintiffs

However, IMEs are increasingly being used as a weapon by plaintiffs who wish to call into question the physical and/or mental health of tractor-trailer drivers.  At least one court in Pennsylvania has ordered an IME of a commercial vehicle driver where questions arose about the driver's suitability to be on the road. 



This means that motor carriers need to be prepared to receive these requests when being sued.  A driver simply having passed his medical certification for his CDL will not be dispositive on the question of whether a driver is medically suitable to be on the road.  Commercial carriers need to be alert to this concern when managing their risk, particularly if they are made aware of a driver's medical condition that affects their abilities on the road.

CDL Medical Requirements And Health

Currently, the examination for commercial driver fitness determination includes a short health history, vision test, hearing test, blood pressure, a urine test, and a physical examination. Further test may be required if an underlying health condition is suspected by the physician. 

During the physical exam the physician is checking for general appearance, eyes, ears, mouth and throat conditions that could interfere with breathing or swallowing, heart conditions like murmurs, extra sounds, an enlarged heard, pacemaker, or an implantable defibrillator. Lungs and chest to confirm respiratory function, abdomen, vascular system, geito-urinary systems, extremities to test for limb imparements. Drivers are subjected to a Skill Performance Evaluation if they are otherwise qualified. Spine and musculoskeletal conditions from surgeries, deformities, and tenderness that could prove to limit motion. Nuerological conditions like equilibrium issues, coordination or speech issues, and reflexes.

A CDL is valid valid for a different timespan, depending on the state that issues the license. Some drivers may even be limited and need to be reevaluated due to results of their Medical Examination. As length of license varies by state, we recommend that you check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV, Motor Vehicle Commission, etc. The longest that the physical exam can be valid for is 2 years. Periodic monitoring may also be required according to the findings.


As conditions may worsen or become apparent during the certified time, it is important that drivers keep track of known medical conditions and treat their body as important equipment to do their work. A movement toward driver health has started- with wellness initiatives and fitness challenges to reduce the appearance of preventable conditions in the trucking industry.

For more information about Truck Driver Wellness, check out http://www.healthytrucker.com/

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Topics: Safety At Work, Trucking & Logistics