What You Should Know About Independent Medical Examinations (IME)
In many workers’ compensation cases, insurance companies schedule what is called an “independent medical examination” or “IME.” The word “independent” is somewhat of a misnomer.
An IME is an examination performed by a physician whom the insurance company hires for a specific purpose, such as to find that an injured worker needs no more treatment or that an injured worker can return to work full-time.
“Independent” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does
The term “independent” is used because the physician who performs the IME has no prior doctor-patient relationship with the injured worker. It does not guarantee that the physician is applying his or her independent medical judgment during the examination.
In Connecticut some advocates have even recommended that these exams drop the term “independent” and use “respondent” instead, reflecting the fact that they’re called for by the employer — the “respondent” in a workers’ compensation contest — not by an independent or objective party.
No Obligation To The Injured Worker
Because no prior relationship exists between the injured worker and the physician, the IME physician has no obligation to the injured worker, including no obligation to provide an objective, reasoned medical evaluation. As a result, an IME physician may examine the injured worker as little as necessary to reach the conclusion the insurance company requested.
Some IME physicians have even been known to use misleading questions to “trick” workers into admitting they are exaggerating their symptoms. A physician who treats a certain patient on a regular basis rarely resorts to such tactics, knowing that honesty and objectivity are required for a fair and accurate medical evaluation.
What The Physician Knows Matters
The insurance company has the right to ask for an IME as part of its attempts to contest your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The IME physician knows from the moment he or she meets you that the appointment is only for IME purposes.
The physician knows he or she is not responsible for any follow-up care, that the bill will be paid by the insurance carrier on the employer’s behalf, and that if a formal hearing is held on contested medical issues, the physician will generally be expected to testify on behalf of the employer since the employer chose him to perform the exam.