If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you must provide proof of the injuries you allege to have suffered through medical legal reports prepared by expert medical doctors. Both the injured claimant and ICBC have the opportunity to choose their own experts. Medical experts can either be treating doctors or independent doctors. Treating doctors are directly involved in the injured claimant’s care typically through a referral from the family physician. Treating doctors will most often prepare their medical legal reports based on the visits they have had with the injured claimant. Independent doctors are hired on an independent basis to see the injured claimant for an independent medical examination. Independent doctors will prepare their medical legal reports based on an examination of the injured claimant and a review of his/her records.
This common-sense principle is also entrenched in law. The Rules of Court in British Columbia state that any doctor who provides a written, expert opinion to the court has a duty to assist the court impartially and not advocate for either party. In other words, the medical experts are required to be objective and unbiased.
There are a number of doctors that ICBC hires regularly to provide expert opinions. A number of these doctors only provide their opinions to ICBC and they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for it. These same doctors have been criticized numerous times by the courts for being biased, for arriving at their opinions with no justification or basis and for having the wrong qualifications which taints their opinions. Despite this, ICBC continues to hire these same doctors over and over again.
In cases involving injured claimants who suffer from soft tissue injuries and chronic pain, ICBC often prefers to hire orthopedic surgeons to provide expert opinions. This is because orthopedic surgeons have no interest, training or expertise in these areas. Instead, they diagnose and treat bone, join, ligament and skeletal problems. What results from this is that often orthopedic surgeons hired by ICBC provide opinions that are largely irrelevant and misleading.
Dr. Marc Boyle is an orthopedic surgeon who is commonly hired by ICBC to provide his expert opinion in cases involving chronic soft tissue injuries. He has been criticized by the courts in a number of cases including the recent case of Sharma v. Chui 2017BCSC 2115.
In this case, the injured claimant suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and right shoulder resulting in chronic pain in a motor vehicle accident. As a result of her injuries, she was partially impaired. ICBC hired Dr. Boyle who provided an expert opinion that minimized the injured claimant’s injuries. In particular, in his report he opined that it was more likely than not that the injured claimant would fully recover from her injuries and that even if the pain persisted there was a less than 50% chance it would be intrusive. The trial judge noted that there was “virtually no explanation for how he arrived at those conclusions” and no weight was placed on his opinion for a number of reasons:
- he has no expertise with regard to pain conditions
- his expertise is in orthopedic surgery which was not at issue in the case
- even if his expertise in orthopedic surgery was relevant, his experience is dated in that he stopped working as an active clinician for at least 10 years
- none of the publications listed in his CV were peer-reviewed or addressed issues of pain
Previous posts have discussed the continuing problem with ICBC hiring the wrong experts (Dr. Grympa, Dr. Sovio) in an attempt to downplay an injured claimant’s injuries.