So, you’ve been injured in an accident and notified by your attorney or insurance company that you have to attend an independent medical examination, also know as an IME. What does this mean?
First a quick overview of an IME. Technically, an independent medical examination means the insurance company wants an “independent” review of your medical records, along with a physical examination and testing by a doctor, to determine what restrictions and impairments you may have, what medical treatment you may need in the future, and what your prognosis looks like. The doctor may also determine if your injuries are related to the underlying accident.
After reviewing your medical records and conducting a physical examination, the doctor writes a report and sends it to the insurance company. The insurance company uses this report to determine what benefits it may or not pay in the future.
The reality is much different though. The reality is these medical examinations are anything but “independent.” Instead, the doctor is a hired gun selected by the insurance company to author a report that will allow the insurance company to stop paying benefits. It’s likely this doctor works as an independent contractor for a company that schedules these exams on behalf of insurance companies and employers.
Because the doctor wants to be hired again by the insurance companies, he has a built-in incentive to write reports that benefit his customers – the insurance companies. Some doctors earn tens of thousands of dollars each year conducting “independent” medical exams.
Make no mistake: these doctors are not there to help you. In fact, in the first paragraph of most reports, the doctor specifically writes that he is not there to medically treat the patient and that no doctor-patient relationship was established.
In Michigan, under the Michigan Court Rules, the insurance company for the defendant is entitled to ask the plaintiff to submit to a physical or mental examination by a doctor selected by the insurance company. Typically, the time, place, manner, conditions and scope of the examination are specified by the judge in advance of the actual examination. MCR 2.311.
For Michigan car accident cases, under Michigan no-fault law car insurance companies can demand claimants also submit to a physical exam by a doctor selected by the car insurance company, however these exams can occur even before a lawsuit is filed.
Unfortunately, under the law, there is not much you can do to avoid these examinations. You have to show up for the exam, or you risk facing certain penalties, including dismissal of your case.
If you do receive a letter in the mail from the insurance company ordering you to appear for an IME, it is important you take action:
1. The first thing you should do is contact your lawyer. Let your lawyer know what is going on. I typically advise my clients to appear for the exam. In Michigan, there’s not a whole lot you can do to avoid going. However, if the letters asks you to bring all your medical records, MRIs, x-rays and other documentation to the exam, I tell my clients to not bring any of this documentation.All that is required under the law is to physically show up to the exam. Let the insurance company order your medical records on its own time and own dime.
2. If the letter asks the person to submit to medical testing – such as an EMG or MRI – I would recommend your attorney fight that request. Again, under Michigan law, all that is required is for the claimant to show up for the exam. I recommend against submitting to medical testing unless a judge orders you to do so.
3. During the exam, it is important to be courteous and nice to the doctor examining you. There is no need to be rude. It won’t help you and will probably only hurt your chance of getting a potentially favorable report.
4. When answering the examining doctor’s questions, I would be brief. Only answer the question that is being asked.
5. Understand your medical history before the day of the examination. The doctor will ask you about your medical history before and after the accident. The doctor will be more likely to believe you if you are a good historian of your own medical history.Doctors don’t like people who can’t remember anything about their past. Frankly, juries don’t either. If you can’t remember much about your medical history, ask your lawyer to mail you a copy of your medical records. When you get them, read them and understand your medical history. Knowledge is power.
6. Be truthful – this is so important. Many people during these exams try to bend the truth by embellishing their injuries or faking pain. The doctor will perform basic physical exams to try to see if you are lying. If your low back is not hurting the day of the exam, let the doctor know that.Remember, the main reason the insurance company wants to send you for an IME is to attack your credibility. Lying about pain complaints or limitations during an exam only plays into their hands. Don’t let them do this.
“Independent” medical examinations are a typical part of most personal injury claims. I hope this article provided you with a background on what IMEs are and the important steps to follow if you are ordered to appear for one during your personal injury case.
The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. is a personal injury law firm in Michigan. Representing injured people for over 40 years, the firm has offices located through out the state and specializes in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slips and falls, dog bite attacks, medical malpractice, social security disability and other personal injury claims.
If you have a question about IMEs or any other personal injury matter, please contact us at 1 800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). The phone call and consultation is free.