If you’ve suffered an injury on the job and have filed a workers’ comp claim, you’ll be asked to attend an independent medical examination (IME). This is an important part of your claim, so you shouldn’t ignore it. You must attend the IME or else the insurance company can deny your claim.
Here’s what you need to know before you go for your IME.
What Is an IME?
An IME is an “independent” medical examination. But make no mistake, the doctor conducting the exam isn’t “independent.”
This is a doctor who is paid by the workers’ compensation insurance company. They don’t owe you a duty of care, there is no doctor-patient relationship, and there is no doctor-patient confidentiality within this examination. Assume that anything you say will be included in the doctor’s report that goes to the insurance company, so choose your words carefully.
Why Do You Need an IME?
The purpose of the IME is to verify the extent of your injuries. This doctor will not be there to treat you; they will be there to exam and assess you—in a light most favorable to their employer, the insurance company.
This means the doctor has an incentive to minimize your injuries and their impact on your life and abilities, which could reduce your compensation claim payout. The doctor has an incentive to find that you’re able and ready to go back to work for your employer.
The Company’s Doctor Isn’t Your Friend
No matter how friendly, nice, or compassionate the physician conducting the IME may be, remember that this person isn’t your friend. The doctor will be studying your actions and movements closely, sometimes even keeping you under surveillance on your way to and from the appointment. They will look for signs of your physical pain as well as indications that you aren’t suffering.
This isn’t the time to start your acting career—the doctor will be well-trained and sensitive to any inconsistencies or exaggerations in your claim and in your demeanor. Answer questions honestly and politely, but briefly and accurately. Don’t exaggerate your symptoms or downplay the details. Don’t evade questions about previous injuries, but don’t volunteer this information either. Only answer the questions you’re asked.
Finally, don’t try to charm this physician. Again, this doctor isn’t your friend and isn’t there to become your friend. Instead, this is a person who wields significant power and influence over the amount of your compensation claim.
What to Do Before Your IME
Before your IME, it’s a good idea to prepare an outline of your medical history and past injuries. Think about how this injury has affected your daily life, work, activities, and relationships with friends and family. Review how the workplace accident occurred, including any statements or documents you may have about how it happened. Go over these answers and mentally prepare yourself, but don’t bring any notes into the IME with you.
It’s smart to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you prepare for your IME. At Hunter & Everage, we have experienced lawyers who can help you in Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.