What Is An Independent Medical Exam?
If you are injured on the job, and seek medical treatment under your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage, you will usually have to see a doctor they have approved, but even if they do not, you will very often wind up attending what is known as an independent medical exam (IME). An IME is nominally when an injured worker is examined by an ‘independent’ physician in order to verify the quality of care they are receiving, but too often, it is used as a cudgel by insurance companies to try and browbeat injured employees into returning to work early. If you suspect this is happening in your case, contacting an attorney may help clarify your options.
Intended To Be Objective
Florida defines an independent medical examination as an “objective evaluation” of an injured employee’s condition, but also specifies that it is generally performed at the request of the injured person, the insurer, their employer, or the state Department of Workers’ Compensation. A doctor who is conducting an IME is, at least in theory, intended to act as a neutral third party between you and the insurance company, who can review the records from your previous treating physician and either agree with the treatment direction, or conduct tests and recommend a new one.
Unfortunately, what often winds up happening is that the “independent” physician has developed a relationship with the employer or their insurer, and starts actively looking for signs of deception in patients that may be answering every question truthfully. After all, it is usually in a physician’s best interests to keep the employer or insurer happy, or they will stop getting calls to perform independent medical examinations on employees! Not every IME will end this way, but it is crucial for the employee to be on their guard in how they answer questions.
Do Not Accept Denial
The actual exam itself will often be very short – as little as 30 minutes – and will involve various tests designed to test an injured worker’s range of motion, reflexes, pain tolerance, and anything else related to the employee’s ability to work. The doctor may ask questions about the circumstances of your injury or any past history of disability. While you are required to attend and to answer questions honestly, it is okay to be brief, and to only provide the doctor with the relevant information they need to do their job.
It is possible that the IME will be used as an excuse by your employer’s insurance company to stop your benefits or to contest an application. Be aware that you have options; depending on the specifics of your situation, you may be able to file suit against the insurer, or appeal the denial of benefits to the Offices of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC). If you suspect that your IME resulted in your benefits being denied or taken away, you do not have to simply accept the result.
Contact A Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Navigating Florida’s workers’ compensation system can be difficult and confusing at the best of times, but if you have been seriously injured, it can feel overwhelming to try and argue your case for benefits. Let an Orlando workers’ compensation attorney try and do it for you – the Hornsby Law Group has experience in these cases, and will work hard to ensure your rights are protected. Contact us today for a free consultation.