Some tips for your Independent Medical Exam (IME)
Anyone who has ever filed a workers compensation claim has gone through one, the dreaded IME, or carrier’s consultant examination. The carrier sends you for an examination by a doctor of their choosing to evaluate if your injuries are as bad as your treating doctor says, or more likely not nearly as bad as your doctor says. Some IME’s might suggest completely different diagnoses from your treating doctor (sometimes from the comfort of their chair without the benefit of even putting their hand on you.)
The worst part is that these exams will be used by the carrier to support their position on the amount and type of treatment you need, or the amount of money they must pay you.
So how do you defend against the carrier’s consultant discrediting your claim? Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. NEVER GO TO AN IME BY YOURSELF! Many clients complain that the doctor “never touched me” or performed a “2 minute examination”. However despite their protestations the carrier’s doctor’s report is still given credibility. The reason is that the claimant has a self serving interest in arguing that the doctor never truly examined him/her. Therefore it is difficult for the Judge to disregard the doctor’s testimony that he/she performed a thorough examination.
To challenge the doctors misrepresentations you must :
a. Have a witness in the examining room with you, and/or
b. Video tape the examination, or
c. Audio tape the examination.
The claimant is entitled to exercise every one of these options, and the doctor cannot object. If the doctor refuses to examine you because you demand to do one of these strategies that is not your problem. If the IME must be re-scheduled because the doctor insists on having his own videotape, that is not your concern. The delay will not be held against you. You must stand up for your rights and do not let the doctor tell you otherwise!
2. Remember, everything you do in the doctor’s office is being observed by the doctor and his staff. The doctor often incorporates simple activities, such as sitting on the examining table or taking you shirt off, as part of their mobility testing. So while you may say the doctor never saw you move, s/he did observe you take off you jacket and pull your shirt over your head demonstrating certain mobility techniques. All of those observations are part of the exam.
3. Make sure you take your own notes about the examination, and share them with your attorney. If you can tell the attorney what the doctor did and asked, it will facilitate a better cross-examination of the IME by your attorney.
4. Don’t try to out-smart the doctor. They didn’t go through all those years or medical school and residency to be fooled by someone who says ouch every time you move. Those patients get less sympathy and even less credibility for their complaints. Whether the IME is a professional or a shill, don’t try to act your way through the exam.
5. Keep copies of any document you fill out or sign at the IME’s office. Don’t assume the IME will keep your questionnaire. Many don’t, and that may be the only proof you have that you told the doctor about some part of your medical history or injury. So keep your own copy.
6. File a complaint if you feel the doctor was unprofessional or hurt you. Contact the NYS Workers Compensation Board at 877-632-4996. Ask for the Advocate for Injured Workers who can help you file the complaint.
You will get a copy of the report from the doctor within 10 business days of the examination. Notify your attorney of anything extraordinary about the exam or the report. It could be the difference in the Judge’s decision.
Remember, your attorney is most effective when he/she has as much information as possible regarding your case. You must provide that information to the attorney. He/she is your advocate, not your private investigator. You are their eyes and ears, so give them as much information as possible, because you know the insurance carrier is doing the same thing to opposing counsel.
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