What are Independent Medical Examinations in Personal Injury Cases?
In personal injury cases, medical exams provide critical information about the specific injuries endured by the plaintiff and how bad they are. The insurance agency that is responsible for paying for these injuries will always try to deny responsibility and/or downplay the severity of the injuries in order to get out of paying a fair settlement. This is why they often request that plaintiffs undergo an independent medical examination (IME). These requests are commonly made in personal injury lawsuits for car accidents because they want to bring in an expert witness who can use the results as part of their testimony.
What is the purpose of an independent medical exam?
The at-fault insurance agency is hoping that an exam by a physician of their choosing will be sympathetic to their goal to pay as little as possible for the injury claim. They will then use the opinion/medical exam from their chosen physician to contradict and dispute the victim’s claim. If an insurer asks the plaintiff to undergo an IME, they may be required to do so. If you are not legally required to get an independent medical exam, then you should not volunteer for one or agree to one because they almost never work out in the victim’s favor.
How should you behave at an IME?
It’s very important to be honest about how you are feeling and how your injuries are affecting your life. Do not attempt to exaggerate your injuries but also do not agree with the doctor’s leading statements (if there are any); do not allow yourself to be intimidated by the doctor. For example, you should never agree that your injuries are not affecting your life or that you have fully recovered if that is not true.
Ideally, you should bring a friend or family member or even another doctor with you who can take notes about the visit and back up your accounting of the exam. If you sign any documents agreeing to a medical exam or additional testing, make sure to ask for copies. This is very important because your personal injury lawyer will need any evidence you have to fight back against the results of the IME.
How can an IME undermine the findings of a treating doctor?
It is common for an IME to find that the victim’s injuries were not as serious as their treating doctor said they were, that their injuries could not have resulted from the accident, or that they actually aren’t injured at all.
How does a personal injury lawyer challenge the results of an IME?
If you and your injury attorney believe that the results of an IME are inaccurate or unfair, there are strategies that can be used:
- Send a copy of your medical records to the insurer and point out that your medical history proves that you were healthy before the accident.
- Ask your PCP to write a letter to the insurer responding to the results of the IME (this usually costs money).
- Let the insurer know that you had a witness with you for the exam and that they can back up your claim that the results are manipulated or incorrect in some way.
- Ask the insurer to disclose the details of their relationship with the physician who performed the IME (this may put pressure on the insurer to settle).
Seek the help of a personal injury attorney
If you or a loved one was injured because of the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!