When a plaintiff in a personal injury case puts an aspect of their physical or mental health at issue, such as by claiming a physical, cognitive, or emotional injury, the defendant’s insurance company will most likely and to obtain medical or psychiatric evidence to challenge those claims. In order to fight your claim, the defense will arrange for you to undergo an “Independent Medical Examination” or “IME”.
Who performs the IME?
It is important to understand that an IME is not actually independent. In fact, it is done by doctors who regularly work for the insurance company. These doctors want to make the insurance company happy so that they can continue getting these lucrative exams referred to them. As a result, IME reports tend to minimize the extent of your injuries.
Sometimes, when more than one aspect of your health is at issue, you may be asked to undergo more than one IME. For example, if you are being treated by a neurologist, orthopedic surgeon, and a psychologist, the defense may seek an IME performed by its own specialists in each of those fields.
The IME doctor is not your doctor. There is no doctor-patient confidentiality. The IME doctor is not treating you for your injuries and is not responsible for your long-term health or treatment. The purpose of the IME is to obtain information and expert opinion for the purposes of litigation, not to provide you with a “second opinion” or with medical treatment.
What happens in an IME?
The IME doctor will typically conduct a patient interview to learn the history of the accident and medical condition, and then conduct a medical examination. The defense attorney has already forwarded your medical records and discovery to the IME doctor, so they know about your medical history already. Many times they will use the IME as a question and answer session in order to defeat your claim about how the injury occurred or some treatment that you may have forgotten about later on and use it against you. Many IME doctors are trained in litigation techniques and are used as a tool by the insurance company to try to make you look like an exaggerator or a liar.
The IME doctor may ask about any other ailments or injuries, including any which have occurred prior or since the accident, which may have somehow contributed to the injury, or aggravated the injury or impaired recovery since the time of the accident. The IME doctor may ask about any lifestyle habits, such as drinking, smoking, overeating, and recreational drug use, which may somehow contribute to the injury.
Generally, the IME doctor looks for a variety of factors about you, including:
1. General Appearance – The IME doctor will observe you, not only in the examination, but in the parking lot and the waiting room. They are looking at how you get out of your car, walk, sit, stand, and climb onto the examination table. The IME doctor will watch to see if you show or lack signs of discomfort and pain during these time.
2. Objective Manifestations of Injury – The IME doctor will review any medical imaging studies, such as x-rays, MRI reports, CT scans, and EMG nerve conduction studies, to try to find objective manifestations of injury (i.e., objectively measurable damage or injury to the plaintiff’s body).
3. Subjective Manifestations of Injury – The doctor will often perform tests which require the patient to provide subjective indications of pain, discomfort, sensitivity, or insensitivity. For example, a doctor examining for a lower back condition may have the patient perform a variety of movements which stretch or turn the back, and note the point at which the patient starts to report pain and the point where movement becomes limited by pain.
4. Signs of Deception – The IME doctor will typically be on high alert for any sign of deception or exaggeration, and can be expected to report any impression that you are intentionally or unintentionally exaggerating any symptoms. Often an IME doctor will insinuate that a plaintiff’s pain stems from psychiatric issues.
The IME doctor will typically prepare a report for the defendant. That report is provided to your attorney and is a part of the discovery in your case.
Tips for IMEs
Prepare as you would for any day. Eat a normal breakfast and lunch. Wear comfortable and loose clothing if you are going to an orthopedic IME.
1. Bring a witness. At Folkman Law, we try to have staff accompany to you to your IME.Otherwise, bring a friend or family member with you to attend the IME. Have that person record what time the exam began and ended, as well as any important things that occurred during it. You need a witness to support you and your version of the events as they occur once you set foot inside the waiting and examination rooms.
2. Document the time of your arrival, time waiting, and the amount of time the doctor spent with you, as well as the time you leave. Many times IME doctors will make you wait 30 minutes to an hour before they see you. Make sure that you tell your story from how they have such little disregard for your time. Once you begin seeing the doctor, record the actual time that the doctor spends with you. Many times doctors attempt to appear very thorough and giving you proper attention when in actuality that is simply not true.
3. Be very careful of the paperwork you complete at the IME office. At Folkman Law, we do not allow our clients to complete paperwork at the IME office.
4. Make sure to do your best on all tests and give 100% effort. Always be honest with your words and with your effort to the doctor. There are tests that they use that trick you to determine if you are malingering or exaggerating or putting on a show for the doctor. Always be honest. Also, if something hurts or bothers you, tell the IME doctor that as well.
5. Always be cooperative, courteous and respectful to the doctor. These doctors get repeat business from these insurance companies for a reason – they deliver results, destroying claims like yours. IME doctors are not your friend no matter how nice and courteous they may be to you. Do not help them by making a scene and being unreasonable and disagreeable.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been injured, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Folkman Law at 856-354-9444 or submit an online form. Our offices are in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients from the surrounding areas.