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What is an Independent Medical Examination?

Lynn Taylor

work injury claim formFrequently, during the course of a workers’ compensation claim, employees are asked to attend an independent medical examination, or IME, at the request of their employer.  Below are a few quick answers to common questions employees have regarding IMEs.

What is an independent medical examination?

An IME is an examination you attend at the request of your employer with their doctor to evaluate various aspects of your injury and recovery.  Prior to the appointment, the doctor will review the medical records provided by your employer, including any available diagnostic imaging.  At the IME, the doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions regarding your injury and treatment.  After the exam, the doctor will draft a report answering any questions your employer has asked the doctor to address.

What do I do to prepare for the exam?

You do not need to do anything in preparation for the exam, other than to bring any diagnostic imaging studies requested (images and/or reports from x-rays, MRIs, etc.).  The doctor will perform a basic exam, tailored to your injury and the issues to address.  And do not be surprised if you do not feel the exam was very thorough.  Most IMEs last less than ten minutes.

What issues will the doctor write about in his report?

The doctor may provide his opinion about a number of different issues regarding your injury, depending on the specifics of your case.  Common issues addressed in IME reports are whether the injury you reported was caused by the accident you suffered at work, whether your current symptoms are as a result of your work accident, whether treatment your doctor has recommended is necessary, and whether you have reached maximum medical improvement, meaning whether you have fully recovered from your work injury.

If the IME doctor recommends further treatment, do I continue treating with him?

Typically, no.  At the outset of the IME, the doctor will remind you that no doctor-patient relationship is formed by the exam.  Although the doctor may prescribe treatment or agree with treatment as recommended by your treating physician, you usually continue treatment with your doctor.  However, occasionally, an employee may choose to continue pursuing the recommended treatment with the IME physician.

Do I have to go to the IME?  What happens if I don’t attend?

Pursuant to Section 12 of the Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer has the right to require you to be evaluated by a physician of your employer’s choosing, and you must attend.  Because the Act mandates your attendance, your employer is permitted to stop issuing benefits if you fail to attend the IME without justification.

My IME is scheduled with a doctor far away from where I live.  Who pays for my travel?

Your employer is required to issue you a travel expenses check covering mileage to and from the IME, and your employer must ensure you receive this check prior to the date of the examination.  If your employer fails to do so, you are not required to attend the examination and your employer cannot discontinue your benefits as a result (but failure to attend can cause delays in your case).

How long will it be before the doctor issues his report?

The amount of time it takes the doctor to issue his report depends on a number of issues, primarily the complexity of your case.  If the question the IME doctor is addressing is a single, straightforward question, it may only be a week or two before the report is completed.  However, the more complex and numerous the issues are, the longer it usually takes to receive a completed report.  Your attorney will provide you with a copy of the report and discuss with you the doctor’s conclusions once your attorney receives the report.

Independent medical examinations commonly cause stress for injured employees, since they frequently do not know what to expect.  Therefore, it is important to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side who can provide you with the information you need to ensure the IME does not cause you any unnecessary worry.  Call the attorneys at Woodruff Johnson & Evans at (866) 400-4450 so we can answer any questions you have regarding attending an independent medical examination.

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