What is an independent medical exam (IME) and how might it affect your workers’ comp case?
Workers’ compensation claims are filed throughout Georgia and nationwide every day. When someone gets injured at work or is diagnosed with an occupational illness, they may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation.
However, there are certain procedural steps that may be required of you before you get your benefits. One of those steps is to undergo an independent medical examination (IME).
What is an IME?
An independent medical examination may be requested by your employer before any part of the workers’ compensation claim can move forward. This is a medical examination by someone other than your regular treating physician.
In other words, the company may request a neutral third-party doctor or physician to examine you and your injuries before proceeding with payment. This is done to get the most accurate and unbiased assessment possible before moving forward.
The results that come back from an IME are critical as they point to the most neutral assessment of your injuries, the severity and the probable cause. All of these facts play heavily into any potential court case involving your workers’ compensation claim.
Can Georgia workers choose their IME doctor?
If your employer or their insurance company requests an IME, they will provide you with a list of approved doctors, and you’re permitted to choose any doctor from that approved list. While this somewhat limits your options, it does allow you to have some say in the matter.
As a worker, you can also request your own IME. You still must choose from a list of employer-approved physicians, but under certain circumstances, you can request a one-time change of physician without prior approval as long as they’re on the pre-approved list.
Steps to take before the medical exam
There is no getting out of taking an IME if one is requested and you want to move forward with your workers’ compensation claim. So it’s best to prepare yourself for the examination ahead of time so you’re not blindsided.
- Start by getting familiar with your medical history. The physician that you see will probably have a lot of questions about your past medical conditions. They’ll likely have your complete medical history on hand as well, but it’s a lot easier to get some of those details from you directly. They’ll want details about the injured area and how your job may have played a role in the injury.
- Collect as much documentation as you can about how the injury occurred and the circumstances surrounding it before your appointment. If you can get your hands on witness statements, video footage and anything else that may be helpful to show what happened, that will be useful. The IME doctor may want to see some of these things to help make their assessment.
- Finally, be prepared to tell the physician about the symptoms you’re experiencing currently. Let them know specifically what kinds of pain you’re in and what parts of your body have been affected. Explain your pain levels and anything else that could be relevant to your injury. These are all critical details related to making a determination about where your case is going.
What can workers expect during an IME examination?
Your visit with an IME doctor will be both similar and dissimilar to a visit with your regular doctor.
Like any doctor, they’ll inquire about your health, check your injury, review your medical history and ask questions about things like symptoms, medications, recovery efforts and pre-existing conditions. They might also inquire about your previous healthcare experience and tests or treatments you’ve received.
They’ll also likely perform their own tests. They might check your range of mobility, for example, if you’re claiming immobility as a side effect of your injury.
IME doctors will be different in the sense that they’re not there to provide long-term treatment or solutions; they’re simply there to determine your current level of injury and how it’s impacting your ability to work. Because of this, their questions might feel a bit targeted and to the point.
Also, be aware that they may record your conversation, so be sure to stick to the facts so you don’t end up providing any contradictory statements.
What you should NOT do during an IME
Always remember that going to an IME doctor is for an official purpose related to your workers’ compensation claim, so there are certain things you should avoid doing during the exam:
- Don’t be confrontational. You should not be adversarial or defensive, but you should also avoid being too casual or flippant. Always try to handle yourself in a professional manner. There are a lot of important decisions to be made by this doctor that could change the course of your workers’ compensation case.
- Never exaggerate or “play up” your injuries. Simply present them as the facts that they are and move on from there. It will be abundantly clear to any well-trained doctor if you’re making more of a show of your injuries than what is really there, so just be honest.
- Don’t make up facts. You should only talk about what you know for a fact and that you can prove. There is no point in trying to make a claim that you can’t follow up. Also, don’t try to speak for others who may have witnessed the incident; they will provide their own statements if necessary.
How do you dispute IME findings or challenge the results?
If you don’t agree with the findings of your IME, you may be able to challenge the results. The first thing you should do is request a copy of the report so you can review it with your attorney. Your attorney can help you determine if the report is incomplete or inaccurate and whether or not it may be possible to challenge the results through an appeal.
When to consult a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
A lot of people think of an IME visit as something that they just have to get through to move on to the next thing. It’s okay to view it that way, but make sure you take it seriously and prepare yourself so you have the best chance at a positive outcome for your case.
If you were injured on the job in Georgia, contact our work injury attorneys as soon as the independent medical exam is complete and let us know what happened. We can work out the details of your case as well as the results of the IME doctor’s examination and see what the next best course of action is for you.