An independent medical examination, or IME, is often associated with workers’ compensation claims.  The examination itself is a medical evaluation conducted to determine the status of a worker’s medical condition.  IMEs can undoubtedly raise several questions for those who have filed a workers’ compensation claim.  Let’s clarify matters by taking a closer look at IME basics.

The Basics of the Basics

If a person has been injured in the workplace, and has filed a workers’ compensation claim, questions may arise regarding the worker’s medical condition, status, or improvements.  These questions are often raised by the Washington State Department of Labor & Injuries (L&I) or by self-insured employers.  During the course of an IME, an IME physician seeks to answer these questions.  More specifically, an IME doctor conducts an examination to answer whether a worker’s claim-related medical condition has reached maximum medical improvement, whether any further treatment is necessary, whether there are any work restrictions, and whether any permanent impairments remain.

IMEs are most often requested to generate information.  This information is predominantly used by claims managers that wish to: close a claim, end medical treatment, or filter out specifics on a given medical condition.  These claim managers will ultimately use IME results to help “manage” a worker’s injury claim.

Some caution should be made here.  Please note that IME physicians are not an injured person’s treating physician.  They are physicians paid by L&I and self-insured employers to produce a report with certain intended results.  IMEs are not designed to assist injured workers with their claims or ongoing treatment.

What Happens at an IME?

While every IME may differ, some generalities can be made as to what is conducted during these examinations.  For example, during an IME, it’s not uncommon for the IME doctor to:

  • Ask the injured person about his medical and family history
  • Ask about past or current symptoms
  • Perform a physical examination with testing
  • Examine x-rays or lab tests

Once an IME is completed, the physician will then write a report for L&I or the self-insured employer.  The report will detail the IME doctor’s findings and his opinions.  Note that an IME is only a one time examination and its focus is solely on industrially related conditions.

Helpful Tips During IMEs

IMEs are typically designed to weigh in favor of L&I or the self-insured employer.  To help balance matters, a patient undergoing an IME should be aware of a few tips.  Some of the most favorable we often advise to clients are:

Answer Any Questions:  Patients should be encouraged to answer any questions that are asked during an IME.  However, they should answer them clearly and succinctly.  It’s okay for a patient to ramble on, but this should be limited for times when discussing issues with pain or complaints as to physical condition.

Be Nice:  Patients should be nice and courteous during an IME.  Nevertheless, patients should also be warned not to overdo it.  An overly friendly patient could easily displease the doctor performing the IME.

Don’t Minimize or Exaggerate:  Minimizing issues, aches, pains or concerns does not portray an accurate picture of reality.  Exaggerating issues is just as worse as minimizing them.  In fact, physicians performing IMEs are often very attuned to exaggeration behaviors.  It’s okay for a patient to discuss problems with pain, but the patient should understand that he doesn’t have to turn it into “excruciating pain” just for sakes of the IME.

Know the Case:  A patient should know the specifics of his particular case prior to undergoing an IME.  At the least, a patient should know the date of the accident in question, the facts of the accident, the type of treatment he has received and the reasoning for this treatment.  A patient should also be prepared to convey his specific physical complaints.

Honesty is the Best Policy:  Lying or acting will not win points at an IME.  Patients should be truthful throughout.

Phillips is Here to Help

IMEs can definitely confuse and cause stress for injured workers.  Please concentrate on improving your medical status.  Let Phillips Law Firm do the worrying for you.

Our dedicated and passionate firm includes a highly experienced team of workers’ compensation attorneys that know all about IMEs.  They are here to help.  Please contact them today with any IME questions you may have.