During a personal injury case or Workers’ Compensation claim, the other party sometimes requests verification of the physical and/or emotional injuries sustained. This is typically done through an independent medical examination (IME). Being asked to undergo an IME is not unusual, and it is not a reason to panic. By understanding the purpose for the IME and preparing for it properly, you can get past this hurdle and bring your claim toward a successful conclusion.
What is an Independent Medical Exam?
An IME is supposed to be conducted by an “independent” medical professional who is not affiliated with any of the parties. This is rarely the case, however. Most of the time, the examiner is someone who is selected by the insurer and has a history of performing similar exams for this same insurer. This means that, at the very least, the examiner is incentivized to make findings that are favorable to the insurer in order to continue receiving referrals in the future.
With this in mind, you can expect this to be an adversarial situation, and the doctor’s findings are likely to favor the insurer’s side of the story and attempt to poke holes in your claim. From the insurer’s standpoint, the end goal of the IME is to produce one of two results:
- Provide a basis to deny your claim outright; or
- Provide a basis to offer you far less than your claim is really worth.
How to Prepare for an Independent Medical Exam
Now that you have a general idea why the IME is being requested and what the other side is likely trying to accomplish, you should have the right mindset while you prepare. There are several steps you should take in properly preparing for an IME, here are some the most important:
Review the Details of the Incident that Caused the Injury
You are likely to be asked in detail about what led to your injury. Some time has passed since your accident, so you may have forgotten a few things, or you may be a little foggy on some of the details. Go over the original accident report and any other notes you have describing what happened, and make sure that the answers you provide the medical examiner are consistent with what you have said in the past.
Know your Medical History in Detail
The examiner will most likely have all your medical records in front of them, including previous injuries and health conditions. Take some time to review your medical history in detail, so you understand what the examiner is referring to when you are asked about any of this.
Bring Someone with You to the IME
Always have someone with you when you attend an independent medical exam. This is very important, because you need a witness to confirm what happened at the exam in the event that a dispute arises later. If it is possible and practical, bring a nurse or another health professional along. This way, they can provide expert testimony (if needed) regarding what occurred at your IME.
Missing your appointment time could be a costly mistake. For example, if the IME is for a Workers’ Compensation claim, your benefits could be suspended if you don’t show up for the exam. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of extra time and arrive early, so there can be no question about whether or not you kept your appointment.
Understand that you are Continually Being Observed
From the moment you pull up in the parking lot of the medical examiner’s office, you are most likely being watched. Assume that the premises are under video surveillance and plan accordingly. The examiner will consider everything about you; including how well you walked into the office, how well you move around the room, how easily you get on and off the exam table, etc.
Do Not Exaggerate your Conditions
Be honest and polite with the examiner, and do not exaggerate the extent of your injuries or symptoms. The examiner will be looking for inconsistencies between what you say and do and what s/he observes, so do not provide any reason for them to claim that you were not telling the truth.
Take Detailed Notes about What Happened at the IME
After you get home from the examiner’s office, write down in as much detail as you can what happened during the exam. Take note of the questions the examiner asked, the tests that were administered, what the examiner told you, and other important facts. This information may become very useful if your case ends up in court.
Consult with Your Personal Injury Attorney for Additional Guidance
For more information on preparing for an IME, speak with your attorney beforehand (if you have one). Your attorney will provide more detailed advice about how to prepare for the exam based on the specific circumstances of your case. For example, they can go over the reason the IME was requested, what types of questions to anticipate, what steps need to be taken to counter a bad report, etc.