Struggling with a personal injury is difficult enough; you’re worried about recovery, medical bills, treatment, loss of work… the list goes on and on. Often, you also have to navigate a complex legal system in order to receive fair and just compensation. One step of the legal process can be undergoing an independent medical examination, or IME. What is this, and how can you prepare?
What Is an Independent Medical Examination?
An IME is an exam or evaluation done by a third-party physician; the stated intent is to deliver an unbiased opinion about your physical and/or mental health, whether or not you have a disability and/or have suffered emotional distress, and if so, the severity and expected timeline for recovery.
The findings of the IME may be used to determine a settlement amount, the amount of disability compensation to which you are entitled, or to find the cause of a health issue. Insurance companies use IMEs when deciding whether to accept your claim and, if so, how much it is “worth.”
The reality is that the “independent” physician is selected and paid by the insurance company that provides the coverage. It is possible – and certainly in the best interest of the insurance carrier and the physician (for ongoing referrals and continued compensation) – for them to find that you are not injured.
Sometimes, even seriously the injured are given a clean bill of health. This is unconscionable – but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. So, what do you do? Should you just refuse to go to the IME?
No. You must attend. Failure to go to the IME can (and likely will) result in denial of your claim. If you are already receiving benefits, they can cut them off. Preparing is essential.
Tips for Preparing for an IME Exam
- Plan to Arrive Early
You’ll want to arrive 30 minutes before your appointment. You can be sure there will be a stack of paperwork for you to fill out. Make sure you know your medical history; the IME doctor will have copies of your records at this point.
- Be Honest with the IME Physician
Be truthful with the doctor, explain your symptoms, describe pain, discomfort, and limitations on mobility and activity in a clear, concise way. Do not embellish or exaggerate your symptoms. If asked to rank your pain on a 1-10 scale, do so objectively. Don’t say 10 – because you’d be in excruciating agony all the time.
What if you have previous injuries or medical conditions? Some insurers will try to deny claims if you have a preexisting condition. Again, be honest and upfront about this. Describe new or different symptoms that were not present previously, as well as any increases in pain and/or decreases in mobility or the ability to do previously possible activities, and whether the injury caused existing intermittent pain to become constant.
Answer only the questions asked and do not provide extraneous details. Stick to the facts. And do not discuss any potential legal action you are pursuing.
- Be Consistent
Describe how the injury occurred, and make sure your answers are consistent with those you give in depositions, reports, and other official interviews and exams. Discrepancies can cause your claim to be denied or benefits cut off.
- Do Not Allow Extra Diagnostic Tests
All tests should be agreed upon before your IME. If the physician requests you undergo e-rays or other tests, politely decline.
- Consult Your Personal Injury Attorney
An independent medical examination can be nerve-wracking. And your conduct and answers can influence the physician’s report. There are so many complexities to consider: how much should you say about previous injuries? What should you say if you’re asked to take diagnostic tests? What if they ask you why you’re taking legal action?
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you prepare for an IME exam. And, while the results are never guaranteed, having legal representation gives you greater protection. You’re not walking into an exam room unprepared. You’re not alone; your lawyer can help prep you, tell you what to expect, and ensure you are ready.
If you need assistance with a personal injury claim, contact the LaBovick Law Group. We are here to fight for your rights.