When a person is injured at work or due to the negligence of another, they maintain the right to file a claim for compensation. For workplace injuries, a workers’ compensation claim is the most common course of action; for non-workplace injuries, a personal injury claim may be pursued. As part of the process–typically, part of the workers’ compensation process–an Independent Medical Exam, or IME, may be required. Here’s an overview of what you should know about an IME, when an IME is required, and how to prepare for an IME. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Alabama injury lawyers.
What Is an Independent Medical Exam?
An Independent Medical Exam refers to a required physical examination that is, theoretically, performed by an unbiased, neutral doctor who has no stake in your claim. During an IME, you will be assessed by the doctor, who will be responsible for providing information about the extent of your injuries, the extent to which you appear to have healed, how much longer may be required before you are 100 percent healed, the degree of any disability and whether or not this disability is likely to be permanent, whether or not future treatment will be required, etc. This information will then be shared with an insurance company, which will use the information to make a decision about your claim.
When Is an IME Required?
Independent Medical Exams aren’t always required. In fact, an IME is only required when there are questions (or disputes) about your medical condition that need resolving. For example, if you are filing a workers’ compensation claim and claim that your injuries prevent you from returning to work but the insurer disagrees, the insurer may request that you submit to an IME.
IMEs and Personal Injury Cases
While IMEs are most commonly referenced in regards to workers’ compensation claims, they are also used in personal injury cases. An IME may be used by an insurer to attempt to disprove the extent of your injuries. Note that even if you refuse an IME, an insurance company may be able to get a court order requesting that you submit to one before they pay your claim.
It’s important to note that while IMEs are supposed to be independent, they rarely are. In fact, the IME doctor is chosen by the insurer, and IMEs often produce findings that support the insurance company’s side.
How to Prepare for an Independent Medical Exam
Because IMEs don’t always work in a claimant’s favor, it’s important to know how to approach your IME. Some tips to help you to prepare for the IME and be ready on the day of include:
- Prepare in advance. Take some time to organize your thoughts and take notes about your injuries. This way, you can be as precise and as specific as possible when talking to the IME doctor about any outstanding issues. Consider practicing with your lawyer first so you won’t be caught off guard.
- Bring a witness. Bringing a friend or family member to your IME can be helpful. Ask the person who attends to take notes about the entire examination. Later, if there is a dispute about what went on during your IME or how fair the examination was, you’ll have a witness.
- Cooperate. While it can be frustrating, the insurance company can likely make you submit to an IME, even if you don’t want to. Being cooperative and polite can only help, not harm, your case.
- Be prepared with a response. If the doctor who performs your IME ends up writing a report that you disagree with, be prepared to follow up by asking your own doctor–or better yet, a specialist–to write a response. This can be used in your case to add clout to your claim.
- Talk to a lawyer. If you’ve been asked to submit to an IME, scheduling a free consultation with a lawyer is strongly advised. If you decide to retain an attorney, they can review the specifics of your case, guide you through the process of preparing for an IME, and help you to understand your rights and options if the IME is unfavorable to your case.
Call Our Alabama Injury Lawyers Now
If you have been injured and are seeking compensation, you need a skilled injury attorney on your side, especially if you’ve been asked to undergo an Independent Medical Exam. At the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, LLP, we can help. Reach us today by phone at 334-821-3892, send us a message, or visit our law office in person.