Moving Through the Independent Medical Examination
Insurance companies and employers are legally entitled to schedule you for an independent medical examination and require you to attend. If you have received notification that you are scheduled for an IME, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney prior to submitting to the process.
The IME Process
At least two weeks prior to the scheduled examination, you will receive notification from the defense or a workers’ compensation representative detailing the date and location of your medical appointment.
If you wish to reschedule your independent medical examination, you may want to contact your attorney at least 5 days prior to the appointment date to assist you in negotiating the details.
Refusing an IME
Unfortunately, the independent medical examination has become a regular feature within the personal injury and workers’ compensation litigation process. If you refuse to cooperate with or attend an IME, workers’ compensation or insurance benefits may be automatically terminated. Your attorney will generally counsel you to attend, but can prepare you for the examination and help minimize potential damage to your case.
How will an IME affect my personal injury or Workers’ Compensation case?
Independent medical examinations can affect outcomes in a personal injury case or determine eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. In the case of a workers’ compensation claim, the IME may be used to terminate benefits and close a case. An IME may also be key to assessing a workers’ ability to return to his or her job, establishing whether someone has recovered from an injury or illness, and determining the extent of permanent disability. Each of these decisions directly affect whether an injured party will receive or lose benefits; therefore the results of an independent medical examination can be a source of intense disagreement between injured parties, defendants, insurance companies and/or employers.
It is highly advantageous to speak with your personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney before your independent medical examination. Your lawyer can provide you with important information and advice about the specific doctor you will be seeing, and help evaluate which aspects of your injury or disability you should emphasize during the IME. It may also be necessary to take notes during or after your evaluation, or draft a timeline of the examination process. Your personal injury attorney may also identify particular tests or procedures that have been ordered but that are not appropriate to the IME counsel, and thus advise you not to submit to their procedures. Finally, an experienced personal injury attorney can inform you about certain risky or unfavorable subjects you should avoid addressing during your independent medical examination.
Don’t Expect a Fair IME Report
While some IME doctors are highly professional and strive to produce a fair and objective medical evaluation, many physicians skew their reports in ways that are unfavorable—and unfair—to the injured party. In fact, certain IME doctors have earned poor reputations for their unfairness or inaccuracy, although they continue to serve as “experts” the field. See the New York Times’ recent series on corruption within the independent medical examination process.
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