If you have filed a worker's compensation or personal injury claim, the insurance company may request that you submit to an independent medical exam (IME). This type of request is not unusual, but it is somewhat adversarial. The insurance company is essentially requesting a “second opinion” that will either confirm or contradict what your treating physician is saying.
One thing that is important to understand about IMEs is that they are rarely “independent”. It may be true that the examiner does not work for the insurance company, but they typically have a relationship with them, and they will usually have performed numerous other exams for this insurer in the past.
This means that the examiner probably receives steady business from the insurance company, which, at the very least, is likely to make them far more conservative in their findings.
The goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little as possible for your claim. This is done by either finding a way to deny the claim outright or to diminish the value of the claim. With this in mind, the examiner will be probably be very skeptical regarding the findings of your treating physician, and you will need to be well-prepared to answer some potentially difficult questions during your exam.
How to Prepare for your IME
There are a number of important things to keep in mind when preparing for your independent medical examination:
Take Time to Organize Your Records and Documentation
Before you attend your IME, spend some time getting organized and familiar with all of the details regarding your injury and the underlying accident or event that caused it. Go over all the documentation you have, statements you have made in the past, police reports, and any other facts and pieces of evidence. Make sure you have an in-depth understanding of what happened and how you got hurt.
Along the same lines, make sure you are intimately familiar with your medical history. The examiner may have some or all of this information, and they may try to use it to say that your injury and/or resulting condition already existed before the accident. Make sure to go over all of this information with your attorney (if you have one), so you are ready to give clear and accurate answers about how you got injured as well as your overall medical history.
Understand that You are Being Watched
When you are in the middle of a personal injury or worker's compensation claim, it is important to realize that the insurance company is watching you. This will be especially true when you walk into the examiner's office. The minute you show up on their video surveillance cameras, they will be observing your physical movements and mannerisms to judge if they are consistent with what you are claiming. This is not something to get too nervous about, just be aware that you are being watched.
Show Up and Be Early
There are some who may want to skip their IME because they are afraid of what might happen there. This would be a big mistake, because you need to attend your IME (if one has been scheduled for you) in order to continue processing your claim. In fact, not showing up could result in your claim being denied and/or your benefits being suspended.
Because this exam is so important, it is best to leave for your appointment well ahead of time to account for any traffic delays. Try to arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes before your appointment, so you have time to park, fill out any necessary forms, and relax. The last thing you want to do is walk into your IME hurried, anxious, and running late.
Bring Someone Along with You to the Exam
It is always a good idea to bring someone with you to your IME. Having someone along will help ensure that you get to your appointment on time and get situated in the examiner's office. You will also have another person who can attest to what happened during your exam, how you were treated, the types of questions you were asked, etc. If possible, try to bring a nurse or another type of health professional who could later testify more authoritatively about what went on during your IME.
Be Polite, Concise, and Honest
The best way to conduct yourself during your IME is to be polite and courteous with the examiner and everyone else in the office. That said, understand that these people are not on your side, and you do not have to give them any more information than they ask for. Be clear and concise and give direct answers to their questions. Finally, answer honestly and accurately, and avoid exaggerations that may be inconsistent with what you have said previously as this could damage your credibility.
Document your Visit
After the exam is over, create a full report of what happened for your own records and to give to your attorney. Note the questions you were asked, what exams and tests were performed, the opinions expressed by the examiner, and other important details. Create this report as soon as possible after the exam while everything is fresh in your mind.
Consult with Your Attorney for Additional Guidance
IMEs can be intimidating, but with thorough preparation, you can get through your exam without too much problem. If you are at the point during your claim where an independent medical exam is being requested, this is a good time to retain strong legal counsel if you haven't already done so.
If your injury occurred in Alabama, contact the Mike Bell Firm, Birmingham for assistance. Call our office today at 205-666-6000 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with one of our experienced attorneys. We look forward to serving you!
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