Every year, approximately 31 million people in the U.S. sustain injuries that require medical treatment. About two million of these injuries also require hospitalization.
Are you currently dealing with an injury right now? Did it occur because of negligence on someone else’s part?
Whether you’re dealing with a car accident injury, a slip-and-fall injury, or any other kind of personal injury, you may be entitled to compensation from the at-fault party. In order to receive that compensation, though, you’ll likely need to go through an independent medical examination (also known as an IME).
Never heard of this before? Not sure what it entails or why you ought to have one done? Read on to get answers to all these questions and get some tips on how you can prepare for your examination.
What is an Independent Medical Examination?
Sometimes, when you’re going through a personal injury or workers compensation lawsuit, the at-fault party’s insurance company may dispute some of your medical claims in an effort to reduce the amount of money they have to pay you in your settlement.
To overcome these disputes and help you move forward with your case, you may need to undergo an independent medical examination. This is an exam performed by someone other than your treating doctor.
The theory is that, by having a neutral doctor perform your exam, you’ll get more accurate and objective medical reports. This, in turn, will help your lawyer and the insurance company to come to a fair agreement about what you’re owed.
Insurance companies often call for an IME if they disagree with the settlement amount put forth by the accident victim’s lawyer. You and your lawyer may also call for an IME, though, if you feel that the first doctor you saw misdiagnosed you or didn’t provide a thorough enough examination.
If the insurance company calls for the IME, they will likely be the ones to choose the physician. If you and your lawyer call for the IME, you will be able to choose your own physician in most cases.
What Happens During an IME?
Before or during an IME, the doctor assigned to you will review your medical records, as well as other documents related to your case. The insurance company may also send additional questions to the doctor to help them understand your situation and ensure you’re receiving the appropriate amount of money in your settlement.
Some questions they may ask include the following:
- Was your condition correctly diagnosed?
- Did the accident in question actually cause your symptoms?
- What, if any, additional treatment or testing do you need?
- When (if at all) will you be able to go back to work?
- Will you need any kind of accommodations if you do go back to work?
- Do you have any kind of permanent disability?
The actual exam will be similar to any other medical exam performed by your treating doctor. The doctor will look at your injuries, talk to you about your symptoms, and perform tests like x-rays to get a better sense of what’s going on from an internal perspective.
What are the Benefits?
There are lots of reasons why an IME is helpful when you’re trying to come to an agreement about the settlement you’re owed. The following are some of the greatest benefits that come with undergoing an IME:
Get a Second Opinion
If you suspect that your doctor missed something during your first examination after your accident, it’s worth it to get an IME. This will help you learn more about your current state and find out exactly what injuries did or did not result from your accident.
An IME can also help to confirm your condition and shut down any objections you may be receiving from the insurance company.
Get Results Faster
Often, with an IME, you get results very soon after the examination is complete.
When the doctor knows that the exam is part of a personal injury case, they tend to work more quickly and do their best to get you your results as soon as they can. This, in turn, will help you to move forward and get your case wrapped up sooner.
Settle Out of Court
Between 95 and 96 percent of personal injury cases settle out of court. You can increase your chances of your case being part of this majority if you undergo an IME.
Undergoing an IME will help your lawyer and the insurance company reach an agreement about your settlement without you having to go through a long, drawn-out court case. This will free you up to focus on your recovery and put your accident behind you.
How to Prepare for the Examination
Now that you know more about what an independent medical examination is and why you ought to have one done, it’s time to go over what you need to do to prepare for this exam.
Here are some tips that will help to put you at ease during the exam and ensure you cover all your bases:
1. Dress Appropriately
Make sure you dress in an appropriate way, just like you would for any other doctor’s appointment. Wear clothes that are comfortable. If you wear a shirt long sleeves, make sure it’s easy for you to roll them up to have your blood pressure monitored or blood drawn.
You may want to be cautious about wearing clothing that contradicts your story, too.
For example, if you claim that you cannot move comfortably because of your injuries, your doctor might raise an eyebrow if you show up to the appointment in workout clothes and look as though you just finished up a training session at the gym.
2. Arrive Early
It’s best to show up early to your appointment. Aim to be there 15-30 minutes before your appointment is scheduled to start. This will give you time to fill out any required paperwork.
Whatever you do, do not be late. This will not reflect well on you and could have a negative impact on the doctor’s report.
3. Know Your Medical History
The doctor who performs your examination will have already received your medical records and will be familiar with your medical history. Because of this, it’s important to avoid fabricating or exaggerating any aspect of your history.
They will know whether or not you’re being truthful about your past medical issues. If it appears that you’re lying or bending the truth, that will be relayed back to the insurance company in the doctor’s report.
4. Be Honest
In addition to being honest about your medical history, it’s also important to be honest about your pain.
Don’t try to exaggerate how severe your symptoms are. Don’t be afraid to talk about treatments that have helped, too.
It won’t derail your case if you mention that you experienced temporary relief from a certain procedure. This helps to validate your injury and gives the doctor a better sense of what may or may not have gone wrong as a result of the accident.
5. Be Aware of Your Behavior
Be prepared for the likelihood that you will be monitored during your appointment. Not only will the doctor be watching you, but there may also be video footage of you going into your appointment or waiting for the doctor to arrive.
Don’t do anything leading up to the appointment that contradicts the story you and your lawyer have been telling the insurance company and medical professionals. This will come back to haunt you and will have a negative effect on your settlement.
6. Bring a Friend
It often helps to bring a friend or loved one with you to the appointment.
While they’re there, they can take notes and keep track of when the exam begins and ends. They can also record the questions the doctor asks you and the tests they perform.
Having someone to act as a witness could come in handy, especially if the doctor’s report contradicts what you were told or what happened during the exam.
7. Don’t Focus on Appointment Length
There’s no standard when it comes to the length of the appointment for your independent medical examination. Don’t let yourself get psyched out by how long the appointment lasted.
A short appointment isn’t necessarily good or bad, nor is a long appointment. The duration depends on a lot of factors outside of your control, such as the doctor’s schedule and what they knew about your case before you arrived.
You can read on here to learn more about what happens during an exam and what might affect the duration of your appointment.
Start Preparing for Your Examination Today
Are you ready to go ahead and schedule your independent medical examination?
If your lawyer has recommended that you undergo this exam, you definitely ought to move forward with it. It could help you win your case and increase your chances of receiving the kind of settlement you deserve.
Do you want to learn more about how to handle other aspects of a personal injury case?
Whether you need help finding the right personal injury lawyer or taking care of yourself after your injury, we have tons of resources available. Check out some of our legal-focused articles today for more advice.