The time after a catastrophic car accident is some of the most challenging in a person’s life. The strain of your physical recovery, missed work, changing abilities, and accumulating medical bills are all incredibly stressful. Recovering damages that you’re owed after a crash is one way to relieve some of this stress.
Unfortunately, to get the compensation you deserve, you’ll have to overcome a lot of hurdles. One common challenge you’ll face is an “independent” medical exam (IME). In this blog, we’ll outline what you can expect from an IME and how to thwart the doctor and insurance company’s tactics.
What Is an Independent Medical Exam (IME)?
After an accident, the insurance needs to investigate your claim and injuries. To do this, it may order an examination with an allegedly “independent” doctor. However, these exams are rarely neutral and are often used to support the company’s decision to deny your claim.
The insurance company pays doctors who perform IMEs, and they are usually repeat customers. Therefore, it’s in the doctor’s best interest to issue a report that keeps the insurance company coming back. For victims who’ve been seriously injured, a negative IME report can have a devastating result.
Common Tactics Used by IME Doctors and How to Protect Yourself
Unfortunately, if you’ve been scheduled for an IME, you must attend. If you don’t show up, the insurance company may automatically deny your injury claim. However, you can protect yourself from some common IME tactics.
The Doctor Makes False Statements or Claims
One of the most common ways IME doctors misrepresent findings is by manipulating the data, including things like examination start time, your demeanor, the types of questions they asked, and how you answered them.
Bringing someone you trust, such as a staff member from your lawyer’s office, along to the IME is one way to document your exam. This person can take notes and act as a witness, so when the insurance company tries to misrepresent the facts, they can testify otherwise.
The IME Report Minimizes Your Symptoms
The goal of an IME is to gather evidence to support the insurance company’s low-ball offer or decision to deny your claim altogether. In their report, the doctor may minimize your symptoms or claim that your clinical examination was normal. They may also cherry-pick your medical records, highlighting “normal,” “benign,” or “stable” findings.
To counter this tactic, it’s critical that you seek medical attention consistently. Your doctors’ exhaustive medical records can clarify or disprove the IME doctor’s vague or inaccurate report.
You’re Being Watched Before, During, and After an IME
The IME doctor, staff, and team are watching you. The insurance company may even have a private investigator monitoring you before and after the appointment. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to be completely honest in the exam.
Don’t exaggerate your symptoms, downplay the effects the accident has had on your life, or otherwise be anything less than forthcoming. They will pick up on this and use it against you. So, if you were planning on limping into the clinic and strolling out, don’t.
Avoid Saying Something They’ll Use Against You
The purpose of an IME is to gather information about your injuries. The doctor and staff may ask you leading or vague questions about your crash and injuries, hoping that you’ll make damaging statements.
Before your IME, you may want to schedule an appointment with your lawyer. Your attorney can help you prepare for the doctor’s questions and understand potential issues that may arise during the exam. However, when something hurts, use clear, simple language to describe your pain. Remember, everything you say or do during the IME will be written down.
Don’t Sign an IME Doctor’s Forms
The defense is paying this exam, so there’s nothing you should ever have to pay for at an IME. However, you might be asked to sign various forms, waivers, or agreements, especially HIPAA or medical releases.
Under federal law, your doctors cannot talk about your medical conditions or treatment without your permission. When you sign a medical release, you’re giving the IME doctor and the insurance company the right to contact your doctors and access your medical records. The IME doctors and insurance adjusters may even try to influence your doctors’ opinions.
To protect yourself, you should politely refuse to sign these forms. If you’re not sure whether you should sign an IME doctor’s paperwork, ask to take it home to review – and then consult with your injury lawyer.
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If You’re Scheduled for an IME, Call a Personal Injury Lawyer Right Away
IMEs are intimidating; they’re also a sign that the insurance company is preparing for a fight. When you work with an experienced injury lawyer at Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we’ll help you prepare for your examination. We do our best to protect our clients at every step of their claims.
Additionally, we know how to handle IME doctors. For example, when we take an IME doctor’s sworn testimony, either during a deposition or at trial, we can highlight their connections to the insurance company and their volume of IME examinations. This can seriously damage an IME doctor’s credibility in your case.
Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: Fighting for Gulf Coast Accident Victims
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we understand that every injury is serious, and every victim deserves justice. If you’ve suffered because of someone else’s negligence, you don’t have to go it alone. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are not afraid to take on the insurance company and get you the compensation you deserve. We’ve recovered hundreds of millions for our clients and fight relentlessly on their behalf.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.