In Georgia, as is the case with many other states, an injured person may be required to undergo an “independent medical examination,” often referred to as an “IME.” Ordinarily, an appropriately qualified medical specialist who is not involved in the individual’s medical care performs the IME. In theory, this “independent” medical expert has two duties or tasks:
- To perform an unbiased examination of the injured person, and
- To report his or her findings to the appropriate parties and/or Boards
In practice, particularly if the IME is performed by a physician hired by the employer’s insurance company, the medical expert may turn out to be anything but “independent.” Most are polite and caring; some can be brusque and rude. Submitting to an IME will not be one of life’s great pleasures, but if you keep these four tips in mind, you should come through ok.
Tip #1: Stay Calm, Be Polite, and Be Punctual
There are those occasions when the person to be examined objects so strenuously to the whole idea of an IME that he or she just blows off the appointment. Don’t do that. If you are a workers’ compensation claimant, willful failure to attend can actually result in a suspension of your benefits. Under Georgia law, the injured worker has raised his or her medical condition as a legal issue. The law provides for reasonable examinations to “flesh out” the correct medical status of the injured worker. In a Georgia personal injury claim, it’s a bit different. There is no Board or Agency to sanction you as a patient. In not showing up, however, you are only putting off the inevitable. Stay calm. Be polite to the physician and his or her staff. Be cooperative. It will go a long way.
Tip #2: Be Truthful
An IME is not the moment to bend the truth, even a little. You may be as intelligent as the physician, but you likely don’t know medicine. If you give vague, evasive, and untruthful answers to questions, the physician will likely be able to trap you. Honesty is the best policy, even if you feel the question and your response may paint you in a bad light. You will be asked about your present limitations. Be honest, don’t exaggerate, but don’t minimize your problems either.
Tip #3: Watch Your Appearance
Dress normally. Ladies: Don’t wear high heels and don’t wear excessive makeup. Don’t wear jogging clothes if you claim that you have low back pain or problems with your lower extremities. The IME doctor and his or her staff will be observant about your appearance, the manner in which you walk, and your ability to interact intelligently with them.
Tip #4: Remember Why the Physician is Seeing You
The IME physician’s purpose is to assess your condition. It may be even to describe that condition in a manner that is not in your best interests. So, while you should be truthful, you should not volunteer information. You should not ask the physician about another medical condition. You should always remember that this physician is not your doctor. The physician-patient privilege does not apply to the IME. Anything you say to the IME doctor can, and will, be relayed to others.
IMEs are Part of the Claims Process
In workers’ compensation cases, IMEs are the rule – not the exception – for any Georgia worker who seeks to have his or her work-related injury designated as “catastrophic.” They are also quite common in personal injury claims. Either way, the entire IME process should be considered adversarial. Most personal injury victims and workers with catastrophic injuries discover that they need – they deserve – experienced, caring, and tenacious legal counsel. At the law offices of B. Clarke Nash, P.C., you will have a strong and aggressive attorney. Clarke provides personalized service and he gets results. You don’t just deal with a case manager; you can talk to Clarke himself if you have questions about the procedures to be followed or about the status of your case. Clarke once worked for the insurance companies; he knows how they operate and what motivates them. He has office availability throughout the state of Georgia. Contact Clarke, using either the online form or via telephone at (912) 200-5292. We can schedule a consultation.