When an employee who is injured on the job files a workers’ compensation claim, their employer (or the employer’s insurer) sometimes requests an independent medical exam (IME) in order to verify the injuries sustained and medical conditions the employee has. IMEs are also used commonly with personal injury claims for a similar purpose.
The findings of an IME may be used to help determine the level of disability of a claimant, help resolve a question over the cause of a medical issue, help an insurance company decide whether or not to accept a claim, or to clarify another issue regarding the medical condition of the claimant.
Independent Medical Exams are usually not “Independent”
IMEs are supposed to be conducted by an independent third-party medical professional to obtain an impartial evaluation of your medical condition and any disability you may have. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
Although the doctor who is selected to perform the IME may technically be “independent” (as in, they don’t work for the insurance company), they usually have a relationship with the insurer. This means the insurer sends them a lot of patients to examine, which is good for their business. So, to continue doing business with the insurer, the doctor will naturally be motivated (at some level) to produce findings that will be in the insurer’s favor.
Going into the exam, it is important be mindful of the fact that this will be at least somewhat of an adversarial situation. This does not mean it is time to panic, however. It is normal to be a little anxious when you are asked to undergo an IME, but with proper preparation, you should be able to get through it just fine.
What Should I Do to Prepare for an IME?
Here are some of the most important steps to take when preparing for your independent medical exam:
Organize Ahead of Time
In the days leading up to your IME, make sure you have all your documentation in order, and that you have a thorough understanding of the medical condition you are being examined about, as well as the rest of your medical history. You should also go over the details of the accident or incident that caused your injury, so you can provide clear and accurate answers to the medical examiner that are consistent with what you have said in the past.
This may seem obvious, but some people do get tempted to skip their IME for fear of what may come of it. Do not fall into this temptation, because the worst thing you can do is fail to show up. You must attend your IME in order to continue the progression of your claim. And in fact, if you miss your appointment, it could lead to your claim being denied and a suspension of any benefits you are already receiving.
Because of the importance of this exam, it is always a good idea to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time. You will likely have some paperwork to fill out, and you also want to allow yourself extra time to account for traffic, parking, etc. By coming early, you will have a chance to calm down and relax rather than walking in hurried and anxious.
Bring Someone with You
It is also a good idea to bring someone along with you to your IME. Having someone go with you not only provides moral support, it also gives you a witness to confirm what happened at the exam (in case there are any disputes in the future). If possible, try to bring a nurse or another health professional who could later serve an expert witness to what occurred (if necessary).
Understand that you are Being Watched
Remember, the medical professional who is examining you is not in your corner. As such, assume that you are being watched and observed from the moment you show up on their video surveillance cameras. The examiner will consider not only what you tell him/her, but also your mannerisms, physical movements, etc. Do not let this get you nervous, just keep this in the back of your mind as you go about the exam.
While the examiner is likely to be biased, it is still very important to be honest, polite, and courteous with them. Do not exaggerate your symptoms or say anything that is inconsistent with what you have said or done in the past. The examiner will be looking for inconsistencies, but if you stay truthful, you have nothing to worry about.
Take Detailed Notes about Your Visit
After you leave the examiner’s office or clinic, write down, in as much detail as you can, what happened during your IME. Note the questions that you were asked, what the examiner told you, what tests (if any) were performed, and other critical facts. Get all of this written down while it is fresh in your mind. You may need this information later, especially if your case ends up in court.
Work with an Experienced Accident Injury Lawyer in Pensacola, FL
Independent medical examinations can be scary, but if you are well-prepared ahead of time, you can get through it. If you’ve reached the point of being asked to undergo an IME, it is also a very good idea to consider retaining an attorney if you do not already have one. A skilled accident injury attorney can help guide you through the complexities of a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim and increase your chances of a more favorable outcome.
If you are in Pensacola or any of the surrounding communities, contact Whibbs Stone & Barnett for a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or send us a message through our web contact form. You may also stop by our office in person at your convenience.