The So-Called Independent Medical Examination
If you are injured on the job the workers compensation insurance carrier has the right under the Pennsylvania Worker’s Compensation act to require you to submit to a so-called independent medical examination(IME). While the examination is referred to as” independent”, it is rarely truly independent. There are numerous physicians in Western Pennsylvania to make several hundred thousand dollars a year examining injured workers at the request of employers and insurance companies and testifying on behalf of those entities. The lucrative nature of such business often renders the examination rather one-sided.
Injured workers can do several things to protect themselves with attending an IME. The injured worker should always time exactly how long he or she spends with the IME doctor. Based on feedback that Abes Baumann receives from its clients, the examinations rarely exceed 5 to 10 minutes. Yet, the IME doctors often testified they spend a half-hour to an hour with the worker. By timing the examination, the injured worker can testify how brief the examination was and help undermine the credibility of the IME doctor.
The injured worker should write down the time he or she arrived at the facility for the examination. He or she should then record the exact time he/she returned to the vehicle. Recording this timeframe will correlate with the actual time spent with the physician and lend credibility to testimony as to the brevity of the examination.
Injured workers should make notes regarding what happened at the examination immediately following the appointment. By writing down what happened, injured workers can buttress testimony regarding how short a period of time was spent with the doctor.
If the injured worker has a healthcare provider in the family or one who is a close friend, that person can be brought to the examination. The Worker’s Compensation act provides that an injured worker has the right to have a healthcare provider of his or her choosing attend the examination. Healthcare providers can include nurses, chiropractors or physicians. When a healthcare provider attends an IME, there is usually a much more thorough and fair evaluation.
Injured workers should always see treating physicians as soon after the IME as possible. This allows for fresh evidence to rebut the opinions of the IME doctor. When you receive notice of an IME, and injured worker should always speak to his/her lawyer. If the injured worker has not yet retained counsel, he/she should definitely talk to a lawyer once they receive notice of an IME. That almost always means the insurance carrier starting to move against the worker.