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When is a Medical Exam Warranted in A Texas Car Accident Case?

In In re Ruben Gonzalez, a cross-complainant filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to overturn the trial court’s order that required him to undergo a medical examination in a personal injury suit. The case arose in 2013 when the cross-complainant was involved in a multi-vehicle crash. A truck driver turned in front of his car, and the cross-complainant veered and crashed into a third vehicle driven by the plaintiff. The plaintiff sued the cross-complainant, the truck driver, the truck driver’s employer, and another. The cross-complainant then cross-claimed against the truck driver and his employer, seeking damages for his own injuries.

One of the cross-complainant’s treating physicians recommended that he have a surgery to remove four cervical discs and fuse his vertebrae. The truck driver and his employer deposed the doctor. The truck driver and employer also requested a medical exam of the cross-complainant, but the trial court denied this.

The cross-complainant got a second opinion about the way he should be treated. The second opinion physician had not yet been disclosed as a potential witness. The second opinion doctor recommended that the cross-complainant undergo a single-disc replacement surgery. His lawyer did disclose to the opposing attorneys that his client would have surgery, but he didn’t identify the second opinion doctor as the one who would perform it.

The defendant truck driver and his employer again asked to conduct a medical exam of the cross-complainant. After they filed their motion, the cross-complainant disclosed the surgeon who had performed his surgery in supplemental responses to the defendant’s requests for disclosure.

The trial court then ordered him to undergo a medical exam with a physician chosen by the defendants. The cross-complainant petitioned the appellate court on the grounds that the trial court abused its discretion. The medical exam was stayed so that the appellate court could hear the petition.

The court explained that in Texas under Tex. R. Civ.P. 204(1)(c), a trial court can issue an order asking a party to a lawsuit to submit to a physical or mental examination if there is good cause and the physical or mental condition of the party is at issue. The purpose of the good cause requirement is to balance the interests of one party’s right to a fair trial against the other party’s right to privacy. To show good cause, the party asking for an exam must show:  (1) it is relevant, (2) there’s a reasonable connection between the condition in controversy and the examination request, and (3) the information sought can’t be obtained in a less intrusive way.

The appellate court explained that it was clear the exam was relevant, and there was a reasonable connection between the condition at issue and the exam request. However, the third element was in controversy. The court concluded that good cause for a medical exam was not established. The defendants presented their expert’s affidavit supporting the exam. However, he didn’t specify what information would be necessary to his evaluation that wasn’t already covered by the existing records or by deposing other witnesses.

The appellate court concluded that the trial court did abuse its discretion in permitting a medical exam, since not all elements of good cause had been shown.

Multi-vehicle accidents can present complicated issues of liability and causation, as well as damages. If you’re hurt in a car accident, the experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to help you. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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