With the filing of any type of personal injury lawsuit, there are many things that an injured plaintiff has to do to win their case. Because this is an injury claim, the defendant’s insurance company has the right to have you examined by a doctor of their choosing. These examinations are usually called independent medical examinations (IMEs), although there is nothing independent about them.
Some clients ask, “Do I need to undergo an independent medical examination?” If you’ve filed a personal injury lawsuit, the short answer is yes. This is not something that you can refuse to do. Most courts require an examination by a medical professional, usually one licensed as a doctor associated with your type of injury. For example, if you suffered a herniated disc in a car accident, the insurance company might have you examined by an orthopedic surgeon. To have all of your questions answered, contact the injury lawyers at 303 Legal, P.C.
What Is the Purpose of an IME?
The purpose of an IME is to allow the defendant to have their own medical expert examine you and provide an opinion about your injury. If the lawsuit goes to trial, you’re allowed to use your own treating medical doctors to testify in front of the jury about the cause of the injuries, the treatment they gave, what physical limitations you may have, and your future prognosis. The defendant has the right to have their own medical expert testify in front of the jury, too. Before he or she can do this, the insurance company doctor needs to examine you and review all your related medical records. At that point, it would be up to the jury to decide which doctor to believe.
The problem is that the exam should not be called an independent medical examination. It’s not independent when the insurance company picks their own doctor to examine you. Most doctors that perform IMEs for insurance companies earn a lot of money each year from the exams. Some doctors perform hundreds of these exams each year, earning several thousands of dollars for each exam. That’s why there is nothing impartial about these exams. It’s more accurate to call them defense medical examinations so a jury understands the doctor gets a lot of money from the insurance company. Calling it a defense medical examination implicitly points out to the jury that the insurance company’s doctor is not impartial.
What Are My Rights During an IME?
There are instances where your lawyer might agree to have an IME before the lawsuit is filed. But most of the time, the exam only happens after your case is filed in court and the litigation has begun. You have certain rights during an IME. Here are the standard rules in most cases:
- The examination can’t take place a long distance from your home;
- If you choose, you can require the insurance company to pay for a driver to take you to the exam;
- The defendant has one shot at the apple—they can’t request a second IME if they don’t like the outcome of the first;
- Your attorney may attend the examination, take notes, and possibly record the examination;
- Your attorney has a right to know what medical records the IME doctor has in his or her file and which ones they relied upon;
- You have a right to correct any factual mistakes made by the IME doctor; and
- You have a right to receive a copy of the IME doctor’s written report and dispute any factual errors.
There is no doctor/patient confidentiality during the exam. Whatever you say during the exam will be used against you. Answer the doctor’s questions as fully and honestly as possible.
Don’t exaggerate your symptoms, but don’t minimize your symptoms, either. The doctor might perform several physical tests like having you move certain body parts or bend over, for example. If a test causes pain or other symptoms, be honest and report it to the doctor. But if it doesn’t cause any symptoms, be honest about that, also. One of the tricks that IME doctors use is to perform certain tests knowing that they cannot cause certain symptoms. But if you report pain in one of these tests, the doctor can argue that you’re not being honest. So, it’s important to be as accurate and honest as possible about your symptoms.
If your attorney can’t make it to the examination, bring a friend or family member. Having someone you trust present for support is always good. But also, it’s good to have someone else to act as a witness, if necessary. The bottom line is that you don’t have to go through it alone.
Some General Rules to Follow
Here are some general rules that you should follow—some things you shouldn’t say to the doctor or ask the doctor.
- Don’t ask for treatment recommendations;
- Don’t make up symptoms or exaggerate symptoms like pain or limitation in movement;
- Don’t minimize symptoms—if it hurts, tell the doctor it hurts;
- Only answer the questions asked and don’t provide any information that the doctor does not ask for;
- Don’t discuss details of your case or anything that your attorney told you; and
- Don’t talk about any type of settlement amount or the value of your case.
Following these guidelines can help you avoid saying something that could later be used against you.
For Help with Your Personal Injury Case, Contact 303 Legal, P.C. Today
If you have been seriously injured by someone’s negligence, the best course to take is to contact the experienced injury lawyers at 303 Legal, P.C. For example, if you’ve been seriously injured in a car or truck accident, you’re entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. You are also entitled to recover any out-of-pocket expenses, such as lost wages and medical bills related to your injury. A law firm with skilled and knowledgeable injury lawyers will fight for your rights to receive the most compensation legally allowed. Further, it won’t cost you anything upfront. Most injury attorneys will charge a contingent fee, and you will only have to pay a percentage of your recovery if you win.
We have been helping seriously injured Iowans recover the compensation they deserve for over 20 years. Contact us online or at 319-423-3031 to set up your initial consultation.