When you file a personal injury lawsuit, it is not uncommon for the defendant (the person or company you are suing) to request what insurance carriers call an “Independent Medical Examination”. You are not a patient of the health care provider who conducts the exam, and no treatment will be rendered. The medical exam allows the insurance carrier to use their own medical professional to try and gather evidence about your injuries and their causes. With this tactic, defendants may be trying to find ways to debunk or diminish your claim.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to consult a personal injury attorney before the exam.
What is an Independent Medical Examination (IME)?
The Independent Medical Examination, also known as an IME, is basically a second medical opinion. The defendant chooses a medical professional to reevaluate the validity and severity of your medical condition. Unfortunately, especially in cases involving insurance companies, the doctors often have a preexisting relationship with the defendant and may skew the report against you.
Despite possible bias, the defendant or insurance company typically must adhere to certain guidelines, such as:
- Give reasonable notice of the time, location, manner, and scope of the IME
- Only one IME is usually permitted unless good cause exists for further exams
- Must cover the costs of the IME
The Independent Medical Examination Report
The medical professional who conducts the IME should complete an IME report. The report should be available to all parties involved in the personal injury lawsuit. The report should be thorough and should include the following:
- Introduction with basic descriptive data, such as injury dates, date of IME, etc.
- A summary at the top of the doctor’s conclusions
- A history of the claim, including a review of all medical records
- Notation of the initial conversation between the injured party and the independent medical examiner
- Detailed findings of the IME with a diagnosis or prognosis
Do I Need to Attend the Independent Medical Examination?
A medical exam is allowed under the law in certain circumstances. Though nobody can force you to attend, the court can compel you to attend the IME or risk having your lawsuit dismissed or other sanctions being imposed. T
Tips for the Independent Medical Examination
Your personal injury attorney can help you prepare for the independent medical examination. The following tips are some things an attorney would prep you for, but it is highly recommended you consult with an actual attorney, especially if dealing with an insurance claim.
- Be punctual
- Bring any relevant records with you
- Don’t be unresponsive or difficult
- Be honest
- Ensure all your health complications and injuries resulting from the accident are recorded
- Bring a friend to take detailed notes and to possibly act as a witness in court
What Do I Do If I Get a Bad IME Report?
As touched upon before, it is not uncommon for IME reports to be skewed in favor of the defendant, especially if the defendant is an insurance company. Doctors make a lot of money from IMEs, and insurance companies are some of their best customers.
Request a Complete Copy
Do not discuss the report with an insurance adjuster until you have a complete copy of the report and have had the chance to review it, ideally along with your attorney. The insurance adjuster will likely only highlight the parts that support their side in an attempt to intimidate and discourage you, making what could be a fairly neutral report seem condemning.
Point Out Unfairness or Incompleteness
If the independent medical examiner didn’t do his due diligence, say so. For instance, if the exam was rushed or the doctor didn’t thoroughly discuss your medical history, then you can argue that the doctor didn’t get a clear view of your condition. This is where having a friend attend the IME with you comes in handy, since you can tell the adjuster that you have notes and a witness that can support the unfairness.
Point Out Inaccuracies
If you can show that the doctor made errors in their report, it may show that the report is unreliable. It may help if you can use your own medical records to point out the inaccuracies.
Contrast the IME with Your Extensive Medical History
Chances are, you have had multiple visits and spent much more time with your own doctors than the IME doctor. You can compare the amount of time and detailed records accrued with your doctor in regards to the injury with the brief contact with the IME doctor.
Have Your Doctor Respond to the IME Report
If the IME report is clearly biased or extremely negative, you can ask your doctor to provide a written response. No health care professional knows you better than the folks you see regularly or those who have specifically treated you for the injuries for which you are seeking compensation.
How Can a NC Personal Injury Attorney Help Me Prepare for an IME?
Since the underlying purpose of an IME is to undermine your claims, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help protect your rights. Your attorney can help you prepare for the exam as well as counter a biased or bad report. Insurance companies are particularly aggressive, and attorneys have the experience to effectively fight back.
Fisher Stark, P.A. represents the injured in personal injury lawsuits in Asheville, NC, whether against an individual or a big-time insurance company. We can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for your free consultation.