IMEs–standing for Independent Medical Examiners or Examinations–are insurance company-picked doctors who you, as a Workers’ Compensation claimant, can be forced to visit in order to be examined.
As anyone who has any experience with IME appointments can attest, these visits can be frustrating, even painful experiences. While not all IME doctors are “bad”–that is to say, unfair or dishonest–unfortunately a great many will not perform proper examinations or will even go so far as to lie, saying they performed a thorough workup when in fact all they did was have you sit in an examination room for 5 minutes while the doctor fills out a report.
There is nothing we can do to prevent you from being sent to an IME. The lawyers at FME however know how to get around these reports and after 40 years of experience we have gotten quite adept at discrediting the testimony of dishonest and deceitful IME doctors.
There are also things you can do to help us keep these IME doctors in check. Here are a few tips you can take with you to your next IME appointment:
- Record the exam. By law, you are allowed to video or audio tape an IME examination. The doctor CANNOT refuse to allow you to do so. Bring a friend or family member with you to record the exam on a camera, smartphone, or whatever is available. This often forces the doctor to do a more complete exam and can help us discredit the doctor’s testimony by pointing out improper conduct during the exam.
- Complain, complain, complain! Do not be shy with pointing out that you are in pain, how you are in pain, where you have pain, and what it feels like. You don’t have to make things up but do not try to “tough it out” with these doctors. If you complain about pain, they are required to document it (although they don’t always do so).
- You do not have to bring your own medical records. The insurance company is required to send your medical records to the doctor and the doctor has the responsibility of requesting additional or missing records. You DO NOT need to bring your own records to the exam even if you are asked to do so. If the doctor doesn’t have a report, that is the doctor’s and the carrier’s fault, not yours.
- Report improper conduct. An IME doctor is prohibited from causing you further injury, from insulting or degrading you, or from any other conduct that goes against medical ethics and the Workers’ Compensation Law and regulations. If you feel like your IME doctor has done something improper, harmful, discriminatory, or illegal you can report this conduct to the Workers’ Compensation Board Medical Director’s Office at (800) 781-2362 or by email to WCBMedicalDirectorsOffice@wcb.ny.gov. For serious violations, you can also contact the American Medical Association.
- Let us know if you get your IME appointment notice less than 7 days before the exam. By law, the insurance carrier and/or the IME doctor must notify you in writing at least 7 days prior to the exam appointment (on a form “IME-5″). If you get a notice that is dated or postmarked less than 7 days prior to the exam date, let us know. (Unless we tell you otherwise, it is important that you still attend the exam just in case).
- Be truthful during the exam. You have nothing to gain by lying or hiding something from these doctors. Odds are they will find out anyway if you hide something material to your case. If you have prior accidents, conditions, or even Workers’ Compensation injuries and cases you can and should tell the doctor about it if you are asked. If you are not asked, of course you do not have to volunteer such information. But lying or concealing information deliberately will only hurt your case in the long run or even disqualify you from benefits. This includes putting forth your best effort when you are asked to move or perform certain maneuvers (including “range of motion testing”). If you give the doctor any suspicion that you are voluntarily not giving your best effort (this is called “malingering”) they can and will use that against you and the judge in your case may believe the doctor and discredit your and your doctors!
Keep these pointers and advice in mind when you are summoned for an IME exam. If you have any questions we at Finkelstein, Meirowitz & Eidlisz will be glad to discuss your situation with you.