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Tips For Your Independent Medical Examination

If you filed for workers’ compensation benefits, the defending party might require you to undergo an independent medical exam. An independent medical evaluation, or IME, is conducted by a neutral healthcare professional or a qualified medical practitioner who is not directly involved with you or the defending party.

doctor taking patient notes curing an independent medical exam

The purpose of an Independent Medical Exam (IME) is to establish the validity of your claim. The healthcare professional will review your medical records, conduct physical exams, and may even request you undergo laboratory and imaging tests.

Undergoing an Independent Medical Exam can be stressful and overwhelming. However, it is an important process for your benefit claim, and with ample preparation and knowledge, you will be able to complete your IME appointment easily and maximize your chances of getting the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve.

Here are our tips on how to beat an IME exam and see past IME doctor tricks.

Prepare And Review Your Medical Records

Before you head into your evaluation, review all your medical records and imaging results and bring them to your Independent Medical Exam. You need to be familiar with your own medical history so you don’t accidentally give false information about your health and jeopardize your claim. Knowing your history will help the examiner get a better understanding of your injury.

Learn What The Insurance Company Has Told And Asked The Independent Medical Exam Doctor

Find out in advance what the insurance company has already told the IME doctor so you can ensure the doctor is getting accurate information about your condition. What’s more, it is likely that insurance will ask the examining doctor about your condition and necessary treatment, and by knowing what the doctor has asked, you can be fully prepared for the exam.

Be Ready To Give An Accurate Account Of The Incident Or Cause Of Your Injury

During your Independent Medical Exam, the examiner will likely ask you to provide an account of what happened and might also have you submit an IME questionnaire. Prepare beforehand by listing important details to ensure you can provide an accurate account of the incident.

Here are some sample IME questions your examiner may ask you during your independent medical exam that you should be prepared to answer:

  • How did the injury happen?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?
  • How would you rate your pain?
  • Have you had the condition or been treated for it before?
  • What is your current treatment plan?

Bring A Trusted Friend To Your Independent Medical Exam And Have Them Take Notes

Have someone accompany you to the examination—preferably your significant other or trusted friend. The accompanying person should take detailed notes of the exam, as audio or visual recording is not allowed. By taking notes, you can prevent scenarios in which the IME doctor omits facts relevant to your case.

Request The Independent Medical Exam Doctor’s Intake Forms

Your examiner will use your intake as a baseline and reference when evaluating your injury or condition. Getting a copy of your intake form will make sure that the examiner has accurate information about your medical history and current injury. This will help avoid misunderstandings and inconsistencies. Also, giving this to your attorney will help your party prepare for the succeeding steps in your claim.

Be Honest

An IME aims to establish the validity of your claim with the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). It is important to be honest and open with your examiner. More specifically, be honest about relevant previous injuries. Insurance companies are skillful at uncovering past injuries. Provide a thorough history of the symptoms, injuries, and medical care related to your case. If you experience pain at any point during the examination, let the doctor know. The IME exam is no time to be tough or conceal your pain.

Withholding or exaggerating any information can damage your credibility, and doing so may have legal consequences—so be accurate and truthful. Your objective is to help the doctor get a clear understanding of the incident so they can help you in your case.

Stay Positive

Undergoing an IME can be stressful. You might wonder, “What if the results of my IME weaken my case?” or be worried about IME doctor tricks. It is important to remain calm and stay positive during your independent medical exam. Staying positive will help you manage your anxiety and stress. You will also be able to focus better and cooperate during the IME. Your attitude can also influence the examiner’s perception of you, so try to stay positive, and you will be one step closer to getting a positive evaluation.

Conduct Yourself Professionally

On the day of your Independent Medical Exam, make sure to dress appropriately and arrive at least 30 minutes early.

During your Independent Medical Exam, make sure to stay composed at all times. Be polite and cooperative with the IME doctor, but do not answer questions that pertain to fault or that are irrelevant to your case (such as questions about unrelated medical problems). Do not interrupt your examiner or react to the length of the exam.

Remember that the doctor conducting your Independent Medical Examination is hired to get the necessary information on your claim. Do not consider them a threat or a hurdle. Rather, your examiner is there to help you get the support and evidence necessary to win your case, so always remain on your best behavior during the exam.

Remember You Are Being Observed From the Moment You Arrive

Be aware that you may be under observation at all times, from the moment you get out of your car in the parking lot until you leave the premises. The IME physician will be looking for any signs that cause suspicion or that contradict your claim of an injury. If you spring out of your car or a waiting room chair, the doctor may testify that you are not experiencing pain. In addition, some independent medical examiners set up scenarios that catch patients off-guard; for instance, a doctor may drop something or make a sudden movement that triggers the patient to quickly turn his or her head.

Mistakes To Avoid During Your Independent Medical Exam

The whole process of a lawsuit is very stressful. Undergoing an IME often makes people feel that they are being investigated or doubted. Their usual reaction is to be defensive and aggressive during the IME appointment. Remember, an IME is conducted by a neutral medical practitioner to gather information on your injury or condition. It is a step rather than a hurdle. Be aware of your attitude and mindset to make sure everything goes well.

Here are some things you need to avoid during your independent medical exam:

Lengthy Answers

Doctors are busy people. Your examiner most probably only has a limited time for your IME. Show you respect them and their time by keeping your answers brief but thorough. Elaborate only when your examiner asks you to. Additionally, talking too much can increase the likelihood that you provide conflicting information that can jeopardize your case. This is why preparing a detailed but concise account of the incident is so important.

Signing Anything Other Than the Sign-In Sheet

Be cautious of signing anything other than a sign-in sheet or evaluation consent form. By doing so without fully understanding the document, you might accidentally waive legal rights, subject yourself to unfair terms, or agree to provide information that could be used against you.

Talking About Your Lawsuit

The purpose of the IME is to assess your medical condition, not your lawsuit. Focus on your injury and the evaluation. If your doctor asks why you filed a lawsuit, keep your answer brief, such as to get a claim. You do not need to go into detail about your case.

Agreeing To Invasive Testing

Do not agree to invasive tests or submit to procedures that your regular doctor has already performed. In addition, you do not have to endure painful procedures.

Discussing Pain Medications

Avoid mentioning pain medications. You do not want to give your examiner the impression that you are abusing over-the-counter or prescription drugs—or that your condition is not bad enough to require a higher or more frequent dosage. If you are asked about pain medication, answer it briefly. What is important is for your examiner to understand that your goal is your recovery.

State Your Goal Is To Return To Full Health

An Independent Medical Exam is conducted to assess your medical condition and determine your claim’s validity. Your examiner is the tool to get the necessary information to support your claim. When talking to your doctor, clearly communicate your goal of returning to full health. Remember they are there to help, so be honest, thorough, and accurate.

Don’t be afraid to ask your examiner if you are unsure of anything during your independent medical exam. Your examiner may be able to give you valuable information about your condition. If they suggest any treatment for your injury or condition, make sure to follow through. This will clearly show your intention to get back to full health.

Take note that your examiner is not obliged to give you his opinion or prescribe any medication. However, if you show that your main concern is your recovery, they will do their part to help you.

IME Doctor Tricks To Watch Out For

In addition to knowing which mistakes to avoid during your IME appointment, you need to be aware of IME doctor tricks that could be used against you in an attempt to devalue your L&I claim. 

These IME doctor tricks include: 

Asking About Your L&I Claim Or Case Value

While the doctor is performing your examination for the purpose of your L&I claim, they don’t actually need more case information beyond that. Anything discussed during your IME is recorded in your file and passed along to your employer and the insurance company, so it’s best to avoid talking about your claim at all to prevent saying something that could harm the case. 

Asking Irrelevant Questions

Another popular IME doctor trick is to ask questions that have nothing to do with your injury. It may seem as though they are just being friendly and making conversation, but this is rarely the case. As an example, maybe you’ve injured your shoulder on the job, but during your exam, the IME doctor asks if you play tennis. This could be a tactic to blame a different scenario on your injury instead of the work-related accident. 

Surveilling You Or Trying To Catch You Lying Or Exaggerating

There are several IME doctor tricks you’ll need to watch out for, but this one is particularly problematic for most people. An IME doctor or one of their associates may surveil you (following you without your knowledge) to try and catch you doing things you wouldn’t be able to if you were really injured. 

This trick could also extend to your IME appointment, where the doctor may ask you different questions that counteract things you’ve previously said. They do this to see if you’ll change your story or suddenly exaggerate what happened or how you’re feeling. This is because, while IME doctors are meant to be independent contractors, they are still paid by the insurance company and could make more money if they can deny your claim. 

Tying Your Injury Or Illness To Prior Injuries Or Symptoms

If you have a previous injury or illness that could have similar symptoms to your work-related injury, a common IME doctor trick is to connect your new injury to your old one. Doing this could discredit you or weaken your claim, as it could cause the insurance company to question the L&I case and ultimately deny it. 

Speculating About Alternate Causes

Without a previous injury or illness, your IME doctor may start suggesting other causes of your injury. They may imply that something like a medication you’re taking, your lifestyle, your family history, or even a hobby could be to blame. This ties into our previous point of them asking you irrelevant questions, as they can use your answers to speculate that anything other than work could have led to your injury. 

Performing Fake Tests

IME doctor tricks often include performing unnecessary or fake tests in an effort to “find” pain that couldn’t possibly be related to your injury. For example, maybe you’ve hurt your wrist in a fall at work, but they want to test your inner ear to see if a balance issue could have been the real culprit behind the injury. 

Don’t be afraid to politely question any recommended tests to see exactly what the IME doctor is trying to test for before moving forward. 

Writing An Incomplete Summary Of Your Medical Records

Another one of the IME doctor tricks you need to watch for is the doctor leaving details out of your appointment summary. The IME doctor could highlight irrelevant details that discredit your claim and lead to a denial. This is why we recommended bringing a friend to take notes on everything discussed, so you can then compare their notes to what is listed in your assessment. 

If you suspect the IME doctor is withholding important details or relevant information for your claim, your L&I attorney can help identify and expose the inaccuracies of the IME report. 

Request The Help Of A Trusted Workers’ Compensation Attorney

While it is unlikely that the Independent Medical Examination report will be totally fair, with the right preparation, you can minimize damage to your case. That’s why it’s so important to hire an experienced L&I attorney as soon as possible after your workplace injury or illness. The sooner you’re able to partner with a seasoned attorney, the better.

Of course, not just any attorney will do. Look for an attorney who specializes in L&I and has ample experience fighting for workers’ compensation cases like yours.

Why Choose Emery | Reddy

The Emery | Reddy, PLLC legal team has over 30 years of combined experience with L&I and workers’ compensation cases in Washington state. We’ve won thousands of cases, secured tens of millions of dollars in awards for our clients, and won extremely challenging cases against big-name companies in state and federal court.

Call now to schedule a free case review with our legal team. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.

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