Workplace accidents happen all the time in North Carolina. However, many people who are injured at work are unfamiliar with the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim. One part of the process that can take injured workers by surprise is the independent medical exam, or IME.
Although an IME is conducted by a doctor, it is totally different and separate from the treatment that you get at your regular doctor’s office. No doctor-patient relationship is created when you visit the IME doctor. You have no confidentiality whatsoever with the IME doctor. The IME is ordered by your employer’s insurance company to obtain medical evidence to use against you in your case. IME doctors in NC are known to charge anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000 or more to see you once and write an “IME Report” for the insurance company. The entire purpose of the IME by a workers’ compensation doctor chosen by the insurance company is to save them money on your claim.
Workers’ compensation IME doctors are examining your injuries and looking for inconsistencies in your story and your physical presentation to them. You should be honest during your appointment and never, ever lie or exaggerate your symptoms. If you’re caught in one small lie during this appointment, the insurance company will use that against you, and assert that you are lying about everything else. It will ruin your credibility.
Even if your employer has treated you poorly over the injury, the IME doctor will have no sympathy for you. His job is to help the insurance company save money. So don’t discuss the legal aspects of your claim with him, and don’t talk negatively about your employer or the insurance company at the appointment. Assume that anything you say will get written down by the doctor. The insurance company may use this and anything else you say against you in any way it can.
The IME can be a bit nerve-wracking when you understand its purpose. If you go in unprepared, you might forget to mention real symptoms that are affecting you, or you might tell the story of your accident out of order. Remember to prepare for what you’ll be asked by the doctor and, most importantly, remember to be honest. Make a list of your symptoms and limitations. Take it with you if you need to refresh your memory. Better yet, memorize the list so that you don’t have to take any notes in with you. Make sure you can give the story of how you got hurt clearly, concisely, and consistently, in case the doctor asks you how you were injured. No exaggerations! And keep in mind that the doctor will be observing you coming and going, from the time you park your car to come in, until you drive away after the appointment. The doctor will notice how you walk, how you use your arms and hands, whether you are driving, and many other things, without you even knowing it. And above all, make sure your head is clear on the day you go to see the IME doctor.