If you have filed a personal injury or workers’ compensation case in Missouri, you may encounter an independent medical examination (IME). An IME is an appointment with a physician of the insurance company’s choosing. It is important to learn how to protect your rights when an independent medical examination is required, as this may be a tactic the insurance company uses to devalue your injury claim. A personal injury lawyer in Kansas City can help you better understand IMEs and protect your legal rights.
When Are Independent Medical Examinations Required?
During an injury claim, you will have to prove your injuries and related medical expenses as the injured party (plaintiff). This generally takes going to a doctor, hospital or specialist for an official injury diagnosis and treatment plan. Your doctor will decide things such as what type of medical treatment you need, your prognosis for recovery, when you can return to work and whether you will have a permanent disability. All of these matters are important in determining the value of a personal injury lawsuit.
If the insurance company that is receiving your injury claim has questions about your medical condition or state of health, or does not agree with the conclusions drawn by your primary care physician, the company may request a second medical opinion to reevaluate the severity of your injuries. This second opinion is the independent medical examination.
Who Orders Independent Medical Examinations?
An IME is meant to be performed by a neutral doctor of the insurance company’s choosing. Generally, an insurance company requests an independent medical examination during a claim when it disagrees with a previous decision made by the doctor that treated you. The insurer may disagree with your diagnosis, your course of medical treatment or the extent of a diagnosed disability. In some cases, a judge may order a mandatory IME to resolve a dispute that has arisen during a case.
Are Doctors in IMEs Neutral?
Doctors in independent medical examinations are meant to be neutral. They should have no connections to either the patient or the insurance company and no personal interest in the outcome of the case. However, this is not always the reality. There have been many situations in which the doctor performing the IME is found to have had a connection to the insurance company, such as performing past medical examinations for the insurer or receiving kickbacks to make certain decisions.
IMEs are most common in cases where a doctor has recommended expensive treatments or surgeries and the insurance company wishes to save money by obtaining a different opinion – one that would result in a lower all-around case value. To achieve its goals, an insurance company may intentionally choose a specific doctor to perform the independent medical examination, knowing that the physician will decide a certain way. This is why there is a risk that the doctor in your IME is not actually neutral.
How to Protect Your Rights During an IME
The result of an independent medical examination could significantly impact your injury or workers’ compensation claim. It is important, therefore, to know what you can do to protect your legal rights. Many states have laws regarding independent medical examinations. Depending on where you live, you may have the right to request your own independent medical examination if you disagree with the results of your first IME. You may also be able to challenge the results of an IME.
The best way to make sure an independent medical examination is impartial – and to reduce any negative effects an IME may have on your injury claim – is by hiring an attorney. A personal injury attorney will understand how independent medical examinations work and can give you advice on how to protect your rights during and after your exam. Your lawyer may also be able to provide evidence from your medical records that challenge the IME report or file a request for another examination. For more information about this part of an injury claim, contact an attorney in Kansas City today.