What Is An Independent Medical Exam (IME)
An independent medical exam (IME) is an exam you have with an unbiased third-party doctor to assess your workplace injuries. A workers comp doctor determines the severity of your injuries and makes an analysis on when they believe you can return to work.
Your IME is an essential part of securing and evaluating your settlement. But dealing with your worker’s comp doctor can be difficult, especially if they belittle your injuries. Knowing what to expect from your worker’s comp doctor helps you better prepare for your IME.
Also Read: 7 Workplace Accidents Covered By Workers Comp
How To Prepare For Your IME
This exam will be a little different than your normal doctor’s exam. You should expect to have two different doctors: a “treating” doctor and a workers comp doctor. Your treating doctor is normally your regular GP or a specialist who specifically focuses on your recovery. The worker’s comp doctor only assesses your injuries and reports their findings to your employer and the insurance company.
You can expect your worker’s comp doctor to be a little more biased since they’re working for your insurance company. Although this is a medical exam, you can expect it to feel more like a job interview. The best way you can prepare for your IME is to:
- Dress nicely and plan to arrive early
- Have answers and statements prepared for your doctor
- Bring someone to keep record during the IME
- Review your medical history
- Go over what happened during your accident
Properly preparing for your IME increases your credibility and further validates your injuries. Bring either a friend or a family member with you to make some notes about what happens during the exam. They can be in the room with you, but they shouldn’t speak with the doctor on your behalf.
Your worker’s comp doctor might be recording you as well. This is normal, so you should do your best to act polite and calm during the exam.
What Does A Workers Comp Doctor Ask You
Every worker’s comp doctor is required to ask you a different set of questions depending on your injuries and where you live. In general, you can expect your worker’s comp doctor to ask you some questions about:
- Your accident and other circumstances surrounding it
- When your symptoms started
- How severe your injuries are and if they’ve changed recently
- If the pain is constant or intermittent
- How the injury has affected your day-to-day life and what limitations you now face
- What your treating doctor has diagnosed you with
- If you had other injuries or pre-existing condition before the accident
- What treatments, therapies, and medications you’re using
- If you’ll require further treatment
Write down answers to all these questions. Try to narrow your answers down to one or two sentences that are descriptive and brief. Do not lie when answering these questions.
Lying drastically reduces your credibility. If you’re unsure about one of your answers, consult with a lawyer before you go to your exam.
Also Read: 7 Things Not To Say To A Workers Comp Doctor
What Happens During An IME
Unlike a normal doctor’s exam, you don’t have the same doctor-patient privileges with your privacy. Normally, your insurance company gives your workers comp doctor some reports on the accident and your medical history. The worker’s comp doctor will either read these documents before or after the exam and compare what happened during the IME.
Your insurance company also sends your workers comp doctor a letter with specific issues they need to cover. This can include:
- Whether or not the injury was correctly diagnosed
- If the work-related accident directly caused the injury
- If there are further medical treatments and tests for the injury
- Whether the current treatments for the injury are appropriate
- When or if you’ll be able to return to work
- Restrictions and limitations you’ll have at work
- If you have a permanent disability and to what extent
You can ask to review this letter to see if your insurance company is inconsistent or if there are any inappropriate questions. Make note of anything inappropriate in the letter, and consult a lawyer if you think it’ll affect your case.
Can You Sue A Workers Comp Doctor?
Although you should expect your IME to be different than a normal medical exam, your worker’s comp doctor is still a doctor. They owe you a duty of care regardless of the situation. Often, injured workers see their worker’s comp doctors lying to fit the insurance company’s narrative.
Your worker’s comp doctor can grossly misinterpret your injuries, or belittled them to your insurance company. If you find that your workers comp doctor has lied on the IME report, you can sue for medical negligence.
If your IME report is unsatisfactory, get a second opinion. Compare the two reports, then note all the inconsistencies with your insurance company’s workers comp doctor. You should call a lawyer immediately if your worker’s comp doctor has lied on your IME report.