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Pace Law

Doctor Fired For Not Changing Her Medical Opinion To WSIB’s Liking?

September 24, 2015

Toronto personal injury lawyer Albert CoforziAn interesting case out of Hamilton, which throws some light on the behind-the-scenes workings of insurance companies and medical exams.

Doctor’s Orders

If a doctor examines you and says you’re sick or injured, it’s the medical expert’s opinion that counts, right? Perhaps not:

A Hamilton-area physician is suing the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and her former employer for $3.2 million, claiming she was fired when she wouldn’t deliver a medical opinion that suited the WSIB.

Dr. Brenda Steinnagel, 50, is alleging in her statement of claim that she was terminated last April after the WSIB repeatedly demanded that her employer, Vaughan-based Workplace Health and Cost Solutions, change the medical opinion she authored on a hospital worker who was claiming benefits after suffering head injuries while trying to restrain a patient.

Steinnagel had concluded in late 2014 that the worker’s emotional issues could be related to his workplace accident, according to the statement of claim. Within two weeks of delivering her opinion, she alleges the WSIB requested clarification.

After further review, which included speaking with the worker’s family doctor, Steinnagel says she reached the same result in her medical opinion, but “the WSIB continued to resist her conclusion,” according to the statement, filed in Toronto Superior Court in July.

The doctor goes on to allege that when she refused to tailor her opinions to what the WSIB adjuster wanted, she was told that she was no longer going to perform such exams. She also alleges that WSIB pressured her boss (WHCS), reminding them of the volume of work they did for WSIB. It is alleged that when the doctor still refused to change her medical opinion of the case, she was fired.

“Independent” Medical Exams

These allegations have yet to be proven in court, but I can assure you that every personal injury lawyer worth their salt is keeping a close eye on this case.

For those of us who do personal injury litigation, so-called “independent ” medical exams by doctors hired by motor vehicle insurers are predictable to a very high degree: Dr. So-and-so hired by insurance company Such-and-such is going to give you outcome X. My colleagues and I often wonder whether the volume of work given to these doctors influences the outcome in the same manner as alleged in the article. That is, is there at least an implied message that if you want future files, you’d better provide satisfactory opinions.

I am going to watch this case carefully.

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