In certain personal injury claims, the insurance company may ask the claimant to undergo what is called an Independent Medical Examination (IME). While many people associate independent medical examinations with a workers compensation claim, they can also be requested in personal injury cases. But how does an independent medical evaluation affect personal injury cases rather than workers comp cases?
At Lipton Law, our Michigan personal injury lawyers have extensive experience handling a wide variety of injury cases in our state. From Michigan car accidents to medical malpractice cases, our attorneys have what it takes to advise and represent you in your case. Before you attend the examination with an IME physician, we recommend speaking with a qualified personal injury lawyer. We can advise you on how to prepare for your IME, as well as represent you and fight for compensation in your case. To schedule your free consultation with us, please call our office at 248-557-1688 today.
What Is an Independent Medical Examination (IME)?
An independent medical examination (IME) is an evaluation by a medical professional that is requested by an insurance company in a personal injury case or by a workers compensation insurance company. When an injured person or injured worker files a claim against another party, the insurance company may request an IME for an unbiased doctor’s opinion on the injury.
The following case types may involve independent medical exams.
- Workers compensation
- Personal injury claims
- Disability claims
- Nursing home abuse cases
- Toxic exposure claims
In many cases, an injured worker or person would normally see their own doctor for medical treatment after an accident. However, the insurance company involved in the claim may fear that your examining doctor gave you a biased opinion. Therefore, they may request that you meet with an IME doctor as well.
While insurance companies want the injured person to believe the IME doctor is unbiased, this is often far from the truth. Many times, insurance companies request a physical examination from a certain IME doctor because they already have an existing relationship with them. In these cases, it is very common for the final IME report to be biased against the plaintiff.
So, how can an independent medical exam affect your personal injury claim?
Are Independent Medical Exams Impartial?
In principle, an IME doctor is supposed to be completely impartial and give an unbiased opinion on the situation. However, this is often not the case. When an insurance carrier requests that the injured party see a specific examining physician, this is often because they already know the physician. Additionally, many IME doctors are retired, or they lack the same level of training and experience as other medical professionals.
In other words, the “impartial second opinion” that the insurer requests may be exactly the opposite.
Why Do I Need an Independent Medical Examination?
As we mentioned previously, many people associate IMEs with an injured worker’s work-related injury claim. However, insurance companies can also request IMEs for personal injury claims. A more specific reason why IMEs may be requested is when the injured person’s doctor submits a report on your injury that conflicts with the insurance company’s doctor’s opinion. Therefore, the IME is touted as a way to achieve impartiality in the case.
Just as an injured worker should contact a workers comp attorney for their case, those injured by another person’s negligence should contact a personal injury attorney. We have significant experience helping injury victims navigate their claims. That includes undergoing an independent medical examination and dealing with the insurance company. While you focus on rest and recovery, we’ll handle the heavy lifting and paperwork.
Do You Have to Attend an IME?
If IMEs are notoriously impartial, is it really necessary to attend them? First, it’s important to understand that IMEs are usually requested after your case officially becomes a lawsuit. If you and your attorney are still in the process of settlement negotiations, it is highly unlikely that anyone will request an IME. However, once the lawsuit is officially filed, you must abide by your state’s court procedures. As it happens, all state courts require plaintiffs in personal injury cases to attend an IME if a defendant asks for one.
There are other circumstances that may lead to your attendance of an IME. For example, if you suffered a variety of injuries or conditions from your accident, the defendant is likely to request an IME due to the complexity of your medical status. They may also request an IME if your medical condition greatly changes over the course of the case. Maybe your condition started out as very bad, but you have since recovered quickly. The purpose of requesting an IME, in this case, is to focus the lawsuit on your current injury level rather than your previous injury level.
Why Do Insurance Companies Request IMEs?
In essence, the purpose of an IME is to confirm whether or not a plaintiff’s injuries in a personal injury case are as serious as they say. Although they are called “independent” medical exams, they are often anything but. Insurance companies exist to make a profit, and they often have existing relationships with the doctors conducting the IMEs. They use these exams to find a valid reason to either reduce your claim amount or deny it altogether.
When the examining doctor drafts the IME report, they may do so in a way that minimizes your injuries or that works against your claim in another way. For example, let’s say the doctor finds that you have previous injuries or a pre-existing condition in your medical records. They may use this evidence to claim that your current injuries are less a result of the accident and more a result of what they found in your medical history.
When you find yourself up against insurance companies and doctors who aren’t on your side, we recommend speaking with a qualified personal injury lawyer in Michigan. The team at Lipton Law is well-equipped and uniquely qualified to combat insurance companies in court. We have considerable experience helping clients achieve success in their cases, even against the toughest opponents.
Who Performs an Independent Medical Examination?
Generally, IMEs are supposed to be performed by third-party contractors who are impartial and qualified to give medical exams. Many of these IME doctors do not actively handle patients and their ongoing care. Instead, they take on more consultative roles. Although they are expected to give impartial opinions on a patient’s condition, they often write their opinions in favor of the insurance companies regardless. However, when an insurance company selects an IME doctor, they must keep the following in mind.
- They cannot have any prior history with the patient.
- They must not owe the patient a duty of care, meaning they cannot be responsible for their long-term treatment.
Who Chooses the Doctor for the Independent Medical Exam?
In the state of Michigan, the no-fault insurance company will hire the physician for the IME. They can choose to send you to a doctor who is not fully qualified to diagnose your condition. Because of this unfortunate lack of regulation, it is entirely possible for an insurance company to use this to their advantage. This is why it is essential to have experienced legal counsel on your side.
How to Prepare for an IME
It is important to prepare for an IME so that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Below, we outline some helpful tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your IME.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes early and dress appropriately.
- Familiarize yourself with your medical records and history.
- Always be honest and refrain from exaggerating about your condition.
- Remember that it’s okay to tell the doctor that something does not hurt. Again, honesty is always paramount.
- Only give accurate accounts of how your injury occurred.
- Stress that your end goal is to achieve a full recovery rather than to win a lawsuit.
What Happens at an Independent Medical Exam?
When the IME begins, your doctor will review your medical records and history. They will then medically examine you and take notes on your condition. Using these notes, they will write up a report about your condition. The judge in your case will read this report and use it to help make their decision. Keep in mind that if you or your attorney disagree with the doctor’s report, you can challenge it. Depending on the laws in your state, you may be able to receive a second IME from a doctor of your choosing.
How Can an Independent Medical Exam Affect Your Personal Injury Case?
IMEs have the potential to greatly affect the outcome of a personal injury case. Ultimately, an IME serves to determine how serious the injured party’s condition is. If the IME report finds that the condition is not that serious, the plaintiff’s damages award may be reduced. If the IME report finds that the condition is very serious, their damages award may increase. Because of the weight that IMEs have in personal injury cases, we always recommend having an experienced lawyer on your side. Attorneys can, in the event of an unfavorable and inaccurate IME, help you challenge its findings.
What Not to Do at an Independent Medical Exam
Just as it is important to properly prepare for an IME, you should also keep in mind what not to do at these exams. Below, we list some of the statements or actions you should avoid while at the IME.
- Do not stretch the truth or exaggerate your injuries in any way. This will only serve to damage your integrity. Just be honest with the doctor and report your symptoms exactly as they are.
- Do not ask the IME doctor for a diagnosis. The purpose of an IME is not to diagnose you, but rather to get a medical opinion about your injuries. Even if you ask for a diagnosis (which you shouldn’t), they will most likely not give you one.
- Only say what you need to say, and don’t overshare. Answer all of the doctor’s questions without expanding too much or getting too personal. Remember that the doctor is very likely not on your side.
Contact the Michigan Personal Injury Lawyers at Lipton Law
Attending an independent medical exam can feel like a daunting process. Having a Michigan personal injury lawyer on your side during the process can boost your confidence and give you the support you need. The compassionate attorneys at Lipton Law are standing by with a talented team to represent you in your personal injury case. We have considerable experience going up against insurance companies and their teams of lawyers, so we know what it takes to achieve success. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call our office at 248-557-1688 today.