If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, the insurance company can hire a doctor who will examine you and give an opinion on your injuries. This is a red flag telling you to hire a lawyer if you have not already done so. They are entitled to an exam up to twice per year known as the Independent Medical Examination (IME). This is a misnomer since the exam is requested by the insurance company and the insurance company hires the doctor. It is not “independent” by any means. The IME is intended to be used to cut off or reduce your benefits. It may also be used to control the type of treatment the insurance company will pay for. It’s routine but it can be turned into a weapon against the injured party who, all too often, is ill-prepared for the examination. Here are five things to know and do in preparation.
Understand Your Right to Refusal.
The purpose of the examination is not to treat but rather to uncover evidence that may be used against the injured worker. The injured worker has the right to refuse any invasive procedures that were not agreed to ahead of time. That means there should be no injections or diagnostic studies such as EMGs, MRIs, x-rays, etc.
Bring a Witness.
Bring a friend or family member who can be called upon to testify regarding the exam if it becomes necessary. They can also take notes during the exam.
Honesty Is the Best Policy.
It is important to not exaggerate. This can be extremely detrimental to the case. Complaining about pain in areas that don’t really hurt will diminish your credibility. That means to be forthright regarding any prior accidents or injuries you suffered regardless of whether they have anything to do with the injuries you sustained at work. With regard to the exam itself, do not attempt to manipulate the exam by exaggerating your injuries.
Make a Written Record Regarding the Exam.
Although this seems like a simple task, clients often struggle to remember details when called upon to recall them days, weeks and months later. I provide my clients with a form to bring to their appointment that ensures they document all relevant parts of the exam such as the parts of the body examined, if the doctor asked you to remove any clothing, how long the examination took, what equipment was used…details often forgotten but extremely important to the case. These notes can be given to your attorney to hold as a record and for accountability. Often I will use them to cross examine the IME doctor.
Don’t Sign Anything.
Unless approved by your attorney, do not sign anything! IME doctors are sneaky. For example, you may be presented with a release that includes language permitting the doctor to videotape the exam or to require payment if the defendant refuses to pay.
The IME is unlike any exam your treating doctor gives you where he or she is only concerned about your well-being. The IME doctor has other interests at stake, like minimizing your injury claim. IME doctors are paid handsomely by insurance companies to perform these exams and testify regarding their findings.
Please contact me for more assistance in the area of workers’ compensation.