Most of the law on occupational medical services involves full-time employee
physicians working for the employer, or contract physicians who only perform
screening examinations. In these cases, the courts have found that patients
receiving occupational medical services and examinations do not have the
expectation of a full physician–patient relationship in all situations. If the
physician is performing a screening examination for someone other than the
patient, such as an employer or insurer, there is no physician–patient
relationship. The patient must be told of abnormal results that the medical
care practitioner knows of, but may not sue for failure to detect problems.
[Tumblin v. Ball-Incon Glass Packaging Corp., 478 S.E.2d 81 (S.C. App. 1996).]
The physician can be liable if he or she injures the patient during the
examination. [Mero v. Sadoff, 31 Cal. App. 4th 1466, 37 Cal. Rptr. 2d 769 (Cal.
App. 2 Dist. 1995).] If the occupational medicine physician treats the patient,
there is a physician–patient relationship for that treatment and the physician
will be liable for any medical malpractice. The physician’s duty will be limited
to the injury and conditions related to it. There is no broader duty to evaluate
the patient’s condition, even if such evaluation would be standard of care in a
non–occupational medicine setting.