Is an Independent Medical Examination Mandatory?

Shannon Burns ArtOften, injured workers involved in a workers’ compensation claim will receive notice from the Department of Labor and Industries instructing them to schedule and complete an IME exam. The reason cited by L&I, as well as many other private insurance companies, is that the IME allows a doctor other than the worker’s primary provider to give their opinion about the worker’s medical condition.

Yet in reality, the independent medical examination can often be a strategy used by the opposing side to get a doctor to discredit your case. The doctor they send you to may claim that you are not injured; that you have completely healed and no longer require medical treatment; or that an injury is overblown, pre-existing or unconnected to the workplace accident. Because insurance companies pay the doctors who perform these medical exams, many legal experts see them as inherently biased and question the accuracy of their findings.

Tips for your Independent Medical Examination:

Do not go to the IME alone. Take someone along to the appointment, preferably your attorney or a professional recommended by your lawyer. That person should take notes or record the exam with an audio device.

Know that you are under constant surveillance, from the time you step out of your vehicle in the parking lot until you leave. An IME doctor will record anything that raises suspicion or that compromised your claim to an injury. If you jump out of your seat in the waiting room, a physician may testify that you do not have any symptoms of pain.

Do not sign any documents except the sign-in sheet. Bring any paperwork from the appointment to your workers’ compensation attorney.

Be polite to the IME doctor, but remember that you are not obligated to answer questions related to fault or with no relevance to your case.

Do not lie about or hide previous injuries. L&I and private insurance companies are adept at discovering past injuries.

Although an independent medical examination report will likely be biased, with proper legal counsel and preparation, you can minimize the damage to your work-injury case. For experienced legal advice prior to your independent medical examination, contact an Emery Reddy attorney for more essential tips.

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