In the state of Washington, workers have the right to choose their own doctor (or remain with their regular family physician) while receiving treatment for a work injury. Yet in some cases, an employer or insurance provider will select a different doctor for an Independent Medical Examination” (IME). According to the workers’ group National Association of Injured & Disabled Workers (NAIDW), IMEs are used for three reasons:
- “to determine the cause, extent and medical treatment of a work-related or other injuries where liability is at issue”
- “whether an individual has reached maximum benefit from treatment”
- “whether any permanent impairment remains after treatment”
Prepare For Your Independent Medical Exam
Be sure to prepare for your Independent Medical Exam by reading our top tips. Injured workers should go into the appointment with the understanding that every word can be used against them if the opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, it may turn out that regardless of what you say, the doctor has already made up his or her mind. However, even if you disagree with the IME doctor, you should not directly confront them. Leave this to your L&I lawyer, where your interests can be represented most effectively.
When To Hire An L&I Attorney
When an IME is scheduled, it likely means that your employer or the insurance company will attempt to fight some part of your L&I benefits. More often than not, IME doctors will base their diagnoses on a very brief visit with the injured worker. Sometimes they don’t even complete a physical exam prior to documenting their opinion. Only rarely does the IME physician give a medical opinion that is favorable to an injured worker. For that reason, when L&I schedules you for an IME, you should contact a Seattle L&I attorney.
While an IME doctor can recommend medical treatment, they should not provide that treatment since they are not the patient’s usual treating doctor, and therefore do not have a “doctor-patient relationship.” Workers who allow them to perform medical treatment may find that they have unknowingly transferred their medical care to this hired gun. When the Department of Labor & Industries schedules you for an IME, your attorney can act as your advocate.
It’s important to make sure the IME doctor reviews all relevant medical records before forming opinions or taking a history; in fact, an L&I lawyer can determine if the doctor is even qualified for the medical specialty in question. It’s also essential to compare the findings of the IME doctor against the opinion of your usual treating doctor.