Statutory Limits Allow Truck Driver to Avoid ‘Vocational Rehabilitation’ Exam in His California Personal Injury Action

FedEx driverAs a plaintiff, it is important to avoid doing unnecessary things that will strengthen the defendants’ position and essentially amount to your helping to make their case for them. This is particularly true when it comes to discovery in a personal injury case. One must disclose and divulge what the rules demand, but there may also be many good reasons to reject a defendant’s request when the law says that you are not obligated to acquiesce. In the recent case of an injured truck driver, the California Court of Appeal decided that the plaintiff did not have to participate in an examination that the defense wanted to conduct, since that type of discovery wasn’t covered by the discovery statute.

Mohammed H. worked as a truck driver and package deliveryman for an overnight delivery service. On one fall day in 2012, Mohammed was parked at a Northern California university in order to unload packages. While unloading, a car that had been parked by a university employee rolled down a hill and slammed into the driver. The collision inflicted serious harm on the driver, including hip and leg fractures. The injury kept him away from work for more than two years.

Mohammed filed suit, first pursuing the car’s owner and the person who had parked it. He later added the university as a defendant as well. Mohammed’s lawsuit asserted multiple theories upon which the court could award him damages. Among these were damages for lost wages and loss of earning capacity. Since the truck driver asserted these bases for recovery, the university asked the driver to see an orthopedic surgeon, which he did. Subsequently, the two individual defendants made an additional request. They wanted the plaintiff to see a vocational rehabilitation counselor and undergo a two-hour examination by him.

The plaintiff refused, but the trial court entered an order compelling him to go to the exam. At his appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial judge did not have the authority to compel him to participate in this examination because the examination the defendants sought was not something listed in the discovery statutes. The defendants argued that the order was proper because the plaintiff had made sizable lost wages and lost earning capacity claims and also asserted in his case that he was still unable to hold down gainful employment.

The California Supreme Court’s past rulings have made it clear that discovery in civil cases, including personal injury actions, cannot extend outside the limits set up by the statutes. In this circumstance, the key statute was Section 2019.010 of the Code of Civil Procedure. That law authorized six methods of discovery in civil cases. They are (1) oral and written depositions; (2) interrogatories to a party; (3) inspections of documents, things, and places; (4) physical and mental examinations; (5) requests for admissions; and (6) simultaneous exchanges of expert trial witness information.

The statute did not include a subsection for vocational rehabilitation examinations, and it did not include an authorization that allowed courts to order discovery outside the six categories expressly listed. This meant that the trial court did not have authority to force the driver to undergo the exam and should not have issued the order compelling him to do so.

For advice and counsel upon which you can rely in your auto accident case, contact the experienced Oakland car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Our team is dedicated to helping injured people in their pursuit of compensation for the harm they’ve suffered. For more information regarding how this office can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

California Appeals Court Revives Injured Driver’s Case Against Tow Truck Company, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Feb. 15, 2017

Alternative Claims for Liability and Your California Auto Accident Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, July 29, 2016

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.