If you have been a recipient of workers’ compensation benefits for any length of time, you may one day receive a letter in the mail requesting that you attend an Independent Medical Exam (IME). If you have never received such a request before, you may find yourself wondering exactly what an IME is. This article will attempt to explain the truth about IME’s, what an IME is and what it is not.
First of all, let us talk about what it is. An IME is an exam scheduled by a workers’ compensation insurance carrier (or third party administrator) for the sole purpose of obtaining an opinion from another doctor who has had no direct involvement in your treatment. Note that I have indicated that this exam is scheduled by the entity paying your compensation benefits, whether that entity is an insurance company or a third party administrator. That means that the doctor chosen to perform the examination was one specifically picked by them. So, the truth is that this doctor is being paid by the compensation provider to render an opinion regarding your work injury and your ability to work. This raises the question, how “independent” can this medical examiner be? That is an inherent problem with IME’s. As long as the doctors chosen by the compensation providers are being paid by those providers, it would appear that their “independent opinion” could be biased.
Also, the “medical examinations” conducted by the IME doctor are often times very superficial and not particularly long. The truth is that most IME doctors rely more on the medical records provided to them by the compensation providers then they do on the IME.
Also, the role of the IME doctor is not to provide treatment. The IME doctor is there only to render an opinion as to whether or not you have a work-related injury and if you do, how that injury disables you or what type of medical treatment you may need. So, in the end, the truth is that IME’s are not that “independent” and in most instances are not much of an “exam”. The doctors chosen by the compensation providers are being paid to render an opinion as to ongoing disability or the work-relatedness of certain injuries or collateral conditions. Given that they are being paid for their opinions, there is a built in bias in favor of the insurance carriers. If you find yourself scheduled for an IME, you should keep track of certain key elements of the examination such as what was discussed, how long the examination took and any unusual problems that might have occurred. Our office provides a form to our clients to complete when they attend an IME. If you would like a copy of this form, please contact us.
IME’s are an inherent part of any workers’ compensation case. Understanding the truth about IME’s and the doctors that perform them will give you a much needed advantage if you have to submit to such an examination. These doctors are not your friends, nor are they there to necessarily help you. If the examination is short and not very affective, do not be upset. Understand that these exams may be used against you and that is why it is important that you stay alert and document pertinent facts concerning the exam.