Independent Medical Examinations

159996-20131021In personal injury cases that go to litigation the insurance company will often schedule you for an IME. That stands for “Independent Medical Examination.” This post will explain what an IME is and how you should prepare for it. You and I will discuss it a few days before it takes place, but read this over in the meantime so you know what to expect and how to prepare.

This explanation will help you understand and prepare for an IME during your personal injury case. You can review it several times if you need to. Of course, these instructions have to be very general. Your case may have special issues we need to discuss. Please call me if you have any questions or concerns after reading this explanation.

What is an IME?

The IME is a medical examination by a doctor hired by the insurance company for the Defendant in your personal injury lawsuit. It is used by the insurer to check on your medical condition and the necessity of the treatment you received. This doctor will be the Defendant’s expert witness – and he will likely counter certain thins your doctor will say.

It is important to remember that the doctor’s report is also going to be used as evidence at your personal injury trial. The doctor will likely testify (via video deposition) and this examination will provide the basis of the exam.

Is the IME doctor on my side?

No. This medical exam is not “Independent.” Some attorneys call it a DME – for “Defense Medical Exam.” The exam is done at the specific request of the insurance company opposing your claim. He or she is not your treating doctor, and there is no doctor-patient relationship created during this examination.

The IME doctor is hired by, and paid for by, the insurance company. If you suspect that makes them a little biased, I will agree with you. But this is our system.

Do I have to go? How far? Can I reschedule?

Yes, you have to go. If you fail to attend, the insurer will seek a court order compelling you to go. And you do have to go to Baltimore if they set your IME up there. I know it is a giant pain in the rear end to drive up to Baltimore for a 5 minute examination. It stinks. But many of the state’s doctor’s are up there. The Court will allow it even if your personal injury case is here in Southern Maryland.  

You can reschedule the IME if it is set for a time you cannot make it. If you need to do this, call my office ASAP so we can do that early. It may not be possible to reschedule at the last minute.

What do I bring with me?

Theoretically, you don’t have to bring anything. But the letter setting the IME will often ask you to bring films of X-rays, MRI’s, or CT scans. You should have these films with you and you should bring them to the IME. The paper reports are good enough for a lawyer, but the doctor wants to see the actual films. 

Frankly, you should have the original films (all of them are on a CD these days) in your possession anyway, so you can show them to future doctors. I urge you to get them from your doctor, or from the facility that did the tests.

How should I prepare?

I want you to spend a little time thinking about the pain and physical limitations you have from your personal injury case. I want you to be able to articulate that to the doctor when he or she asks. It is very important that they know your exact symptoms. I don’t want you to “wing it” while in their office and forget to tell them something. You can make some notes to help you explain if you like.

How should I handle myself when I am at the IME?

Be honest and thorough about your pain, symptoms, and physical limitations. Do not exaggerate anything. The doctor will see through that immediately and there will be a line in your report about it. That does not help your case. On the other hand, do not minimize your pain either. Don’t play tough guy and say everything is fine if it is not. This doesn’t allow the doctor to do their job, and it will also hurt your case. Remember these two words – honest & thorough.

However, do not be too chatty with the doctor. Keep this a very businesslike meeting. Stick to the topic at hand. You are not going to talk the doctor into siding with you. They are going to make their report based strictly on the medical evidence. Just because they are pleasant doesn’t mean they are on your side.

What happens after the IME?

After the IME, the doctor will issue a report. Usually, that takes about 30 days. The doctor usually dictates the report, and the office sends out their dictation for typing, and then he reviews it before it goes out, then the assistant gets around to mailing it, etc. You can easily see how this process takes a few weeks. If the doctor is seeing active patients during that time, your IME report is not his or her first priority.

I will get a copy of the report. When I do, I will call you to discuss it and what it means to your personal injury case. Again, call me if you have any questions or concerns. I am happy to talk to you. I provide this explanation so you can be better prepared, and review it multiple times if you need to.

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About Tucker Clagett

Tucker has one of the largest Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation practices in Southern Maryland. He is an experienced litigator, winning jury trials in courts around the state, and successfully litigating appeals in Maryland’s Appellate Courts. Tucker is very active in the community and loves to serve through various community groups and non-profit agencies, some of which he created. He is on the Board of Directors of Living Water of Charles County, which puts water and septic into homes of families with out. Tucker is also a member of the Mason Springs Conservancy, which purchased an environmentally sensitive piece of land along the Mattawoman Creek to protect it from pollution while leaving it open to local fisherman who have been fishing there for decades. Tucker is a member of the Maryland Association for Justice. He served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Richard H. Sothoron on the Prince George’s County Circuit Court.