Under certain conditions, if you have been injured in a traffic accident, your insurance policy may require that you see a doctor to verify your injuries. These are called “independent medical exams” (IMEs) and the doctors are called “independent medical examiners.” These are potentially dangerous, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself in the event that the doctor’s report is inaccurate or harmful to your claim.
Bring a Loved One to your Independent Medical Exam
You should have a witness. Often it is easiest to bring a spouse if you are married. If you are not married, it is often easiest to bring a parent or adult child because hospitals sometimes make it difficult for non-family members to join you during medical treatment or examination.
Make sure your witness understands ahead of time what the examination is about and why you are bringing him or her. You want him or her to document the entire experience. The witness should note when the doctor begins and ends, what questions the doctor asks you, what tests are performed, and any other details that you may not remember but the witness believes could be useful in a future legal setting.
Of course, the extra person in the room also helps keep the doctor honest and tends to prevent rudeness or intimidation.
Fighting a Bad IME Report
Most doctors who perform IMEs are technically independent but have ongoing working relationships with the insurance companies. They understand that it is in their financial interest to keep their paying customers (the insurance companies) happy. Therefore, these doctors generally attempt to minimize whatever symptoms you may be exhibiting.
The doctor will generally send the report directly to the insurance company without giving you a copy. The first thing your lawyer should do is get a copy of the report. It is generally unwise to even discuss the Independent Medical Exam with an insurance adjuster until you have your own complete copy of the report.
If the IME was superficial, done without the doctor having taken a thorough medical history or without the doctor having asked you about your symptoms, your lawyer should present these facts to the insurance adjuster. This is one of the reasons it is important to have a witness who can verify.
If the examiner’s report is incomplete or inaccurate, use your personal medical records and journal to point out the missing or incorrect information. (Yes, you should be keeping a journal of your symptoms.) Your lawyer should remind the adjuster that your own doctors are much more familiar with you and have spent more time with you than the independent medical examiner and therefore their reports are supported by knowledge and experience.
If the medical examiner’s report is particularly unfair, you may want to get your own doctor – preferably a specialist – to write a specific response. This will likely cost you some money, but it is often worth it.
If your lawyer begins to get a sense that this case will go on to litigation, your lawyer will want to ask for a written summary of the doctor’s relationship with the insurance company – the number of IME referrals this doctor has received from that company, the amount of money the doctor makes for these IMEs, how many IMEs the examiner has performed for the insurance company’s attorneys, etc. There is no way you will get the information during settlement negotiations but it will certainly put the insurance adjuster on the defensive. You also want to be careful if the driver is uninsured or underinsured.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
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