Illinois’s workers’ compensation laws allow you to choose your own doctor when receiving treatment for a work injury. This is beneficial in that it allows you to get medical treatment from someone who knows you and who will work in your best interests. If you have been injured on the job and need some time off work or disability pay, they’ll be able to vouch for you.
However, insurance companies may question a decision made by your doctor, especially if it means extra costs for them and your employer. For this reason, they may request an independent medical examination (IME) from one of their own doctors. This can be a bit problematic, and there is a chance it could diminish the amount of compensation you receive, but there are ways to deal with it.
Independent Medical Examinations
The purpose of an IME is to verify or clarify decisions made by your treating doctor. This will arise in the event of a dispute. For instance, if your doctor says you need six weeks off work and specific surgeries for an injury, and the insurance company decides that’s excessive, they may send an impartial doctor to perform an IME.
If you are notified about an IME, you will need to go through with it and be as honest as possible. The doctor’s job will be to determine whether the findings of your treating doctor are completely reliable, and your claim won’t go forward until they have a chance to do that.
Issues with IME Doctors
While an IME may be technically necessary, it can present certain difficulties your claim. One of the primary issues with IME doctors is they have no relationship with the patient (you). This means they don’t know you or your health history very well, and they won’t be as interested in serving your best interests.
In addition, IME doctors often don’t do anything aside from these types of examinations. They may be retired or simply focus their work entirely on performing IMEs. This means their objectivity could be compromised since their payment comes from your employer’s insurance provider. While IME doctors are honest in most cases, there are some who are focused primarily on pleasing the insurance company.
In some cases, they may verify the initial findings of your treating doctor, but if it becomes apparent later on that you need further time off, they may challenge those findings in order to serve their own interests.
Preparing for an IME
Because an IME presents some risk to your claim, it’s best to be prepared. There are a number of things you can do to get ready for an independent medical examination:
- Bring a friend or family member to act as a witness
- Take notes on the duration of the examination, what the doctor did, etc.
- Involve your own doctor, especially if the insurance adjuster relies heavily on a negative IME report
- Speak with a workers’ compensation attorney
By working closely with your treating doctor, your attorney, and others, you can make sure you receive the full amount you are owed for a workplace injury, even in the face of an IME. Hart David Carson LLP can provide the legal expertise you need for workers’ comp claims in Illinois.