If you have been injured or exposed to a dangerous substance or condition on the job, and you need to file a worker’s compensation claim, you need to prepare yourself for the Independent Medical Examination. This particular medical exam is quite different a routine exam at your doctor’s office. An Independent Medical Examination (IME) will be requested by your employer for the sole purpose of seeking evidence to challenge your worker’s compensation claim.
What is an Independent Medical Examination?
Many Missouri and Arkansas worker’s compensation clients are very concerned or confused when they receive a request from their employer to attend an Independent Medical Examination. Understanding the true purpose of the exam and what to expect will make the experience less stressful.
The IME is essentially a “second opinion” from a so-called “independent” doctor, regarding your claimed injury or illness. Employers or their worker’s compensation insurance carriers almost routinely require employees to participate in these exams when a worker’s compensation claim has been filed.
Are employees required to participate in an IME?
Once you receive a letter requesting that you attend an independent medical examination, you are required by law to do so. If you fail to attend, you will run the risk of losing your worker’s compensation benefits. Be sure to let your worker’s compensation attorney know when you receive this request. Your attorney will likely have important advice to give you in order to prepare you for the appointment. There are some limitations regarding what an independent doctor in this situation can do at these examinations. Some tests or procedures may not be appropriate for your IME.
How can an IME be detrimental to a Worker’s Compensation claim?
Worker’s compensation is meant to pay for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment required as a result of a workplace injury or illness. It also pays any lost wages if you disabled and unable to return to work due to a workplace injury or illness. Because of the extent of liability many companies face as a result of Worker’s Compensation claims, insurance companies often make every attempt to deny paying benefits. The independent medical examination is one way of doing so.
Independent Medical Examinations are not so “independent”
It is very common for an independent medical examination to conclude that either that you should return to work without restrictions, or that your condition was not actually work=related. The reality is, these examinations are far from unbiased or neutral, as a true second opinion should be.
Instead, worker’s compensation insurance carriers utilize the same physicians repeatedly, to provide the same results in favor of the employer. Many of these doctors earn a substantial living this way.
What to expect and what not to expect
The main purpose of the independent medical examination is not really to provide a second medical opinion, but instead to obtain information for litigation purposes. The information being sought is not to support the employee’s claim. One thing to remember is that the doctor should never ask you irrelevant or inappropriate questions, including what you may have said to your attorney about your claim, what you believe your benefits should be for your injuries, or the status of settlement negotiations or litigation. These questions are all off limits.
If you have questions regarding independent medical examinations, or any other workers’ compensation issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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