Studies have shown that up to 50% of plaintiffs are either malingering or partially malingering. By definition, malingering is the falsification of medical symptoms for secondary gain, often money. Partial malingering is the exaggeration of real medical symptoms for secondary gain. Below are the top 4 signs of malingering that you should look out for on your next file!
1) Bo Derek Syndrome: Plaintiffs looking to maximize the value of their claim often exaggerate the severity of their injuries. When asked about their pain levels, on a scale of 1-10, claimants who are malingering will typically respond with a ten for all body parts.
Pain in the back? Ten!
Pain in the neck? Ten!
Pain in the flux capacitor? Ten!
An inexperienced independent medical examiner (IME) may take this at face value resulting in significant potential loss for the defendant.
2) History of Past Personal Injury Lawsuits: Plaintiffs who experience financial benefits from litigation are more likely to file more lawsuits. Some plaintiffs, whether “unlucky” or unscrupulous, experience multiple serial injuries, typically on the premises of well-insured defendants.
3) History of Complete Recovery from Prior Injuries: Plaintiffs are financially incentivized to maximize the impact of the present injury and minimize the impact of previous ones. Plaintiffs who have had significant disabling pre-existing injuries will frequently tell medical examiners that their pre-existing injuries and disabilities had completely resolved before the present injury. This is done under the guise that the present injury is solely responsible for all of the plaintiff’s present pain and functional limitations. Sophisticated medical experts see through this.
4) Inconsistency: Malingering plaintiffs will claim one thing and do another. A plaintiff may tell an examiner that they can’t remain upright for more than 20 minutes for instance, but will freely admit to driving an hour nonstop to the examiner’s office! Discrepancies can sometimes also be detected between the plaintiff’s behavior in the examiner’s waiting room and the examination room. Some plaintiffs are mobile and self-sufficient in the waiting room but when they cross the threshold of the examination room then they experience a rapid onset of crippling and disabling limitations.
Steps to Mitigate Plaintiff Malingering
- Always assume that the potential for malingering exists, without passing judgment.
- Hire the right Independent Medical Examiner to evaluate the plaintiff. IMEs are an important tool in detecting and managing malingering.
- When choosing the right IME, it is important to be selective. Evaluate an IME based on specific experience and history of exam thoroughness, not just cost or convenience. The right IME will have the knowledge to identify and see past the malingerer to get to the root of the issues.
- Partner with a quality IME provider network that is committed to excellence and providing the highest quality IMEs available.