How Insurance Companies Use Independent Medical Examinations to Their Advantage And What to Do About It
An independent medical exam is supposed to provide a second opinion on the nature and extent of injuries in a personal injury case. Unfortunately, the insurance company for the defendant generally chooses the independent medical examiner (IME), which provides an unfair advantage for the insurer. An experienced personal injury attorney in Mississippi can help protect your rights when you are scheduled for an independent medical exam.
IMEs are Not Really “Independent”
Independent medical examiners are contracted by the insurance company through vendors. These vendors behave as middlemen to provide the services of IME physicians to different insurance carriers in Mississippi. The doctor’s primary income source in many cases is performing these types of exams, which makes them anything but “independent”.
You should note that these doctors are not conducting the examination to treat your injuries. In fact, in most cases, they are simply looking for ways to report to the insurance carrier that your injuries are not as bad as you claim and/or that you don’t require further treatment. The law and policies are quite clear though. You cannot avoid going in for an IME if the insurance carrier requests it.
Your claim may get canceled or the benefits terminated if you fail to submit to the exam. This doesn’t mean that you are completely without rights, however. You can ask for a detailed explanation regarding any change in benefits or denial. You also have the right to a second medical opinion if you disagree with the IME report.
Tips to Protect Your Interests During an Independent Medical Examination
Insurance companies routinely schedule independent medical exams to reduce or deny the compensation claim. Here are some tips that can help if you are scheduled for an IME:
- Let your attorney know the time and place of the scheduled appointment immediately.
- Make a list of your symptoms and carry it with you so you don’t forget it. The list should include where the pain is and any physical limitations.
- What you wear will reflect on the final opinion. For instance, if you claim a knee injury, but wear heels to the appointment, the medical examiner will make a note of it in the report. You should take precautions to prevent the doctor from making a judgment call about your injuries and present condition based on your attire.
- You risk damaging the claim if you exaggerate the symptoms to the physician.
- The doctor will ask questions regarding your injuries and the accident. You should be brief and concise yet ensure you don’t leave anything out. Make sure you don’t elaborate off-topic. Again, the doctor is not looking to treat you.
- You should take notes of your own. Note down the time when the examination starts and ends. You should note the type of tests performed on you and give this information to your attorney.
- You don’t need to submit to invasive tests, such as an EMG or an x-ray.
Always remember that every move you make during an IME is under observation. This includes when you are getting on or off the examination table and while walking. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and what to expect during an independent medical examination.
Need for a Reputable Personal Injury Attorney
You should consult with a seasoned personal injury lawyer as soon as possible if your insurance carrier has scheduled an IME for you. Anything you say or do throughout the medical exam can be used for reducing the compensation benefits. A qualified attorney will be able to protect your rights when the exam takes place.
These are a few ways an attorney can help:
Preparing for the exam
Your attorney will know what insurers are looking for during such an exam. They will head off problems by offering wise counsel. Any exaggeration or jokes made around your injuries may be used for damaging your credibility. Volunteering too much information may damage the claim as well. Your attorney will guide you with some mock-trial questions to help you understand what to expect during the IME.
Speak on your behalf
You can request to have your attorney present during the examination. Your attorney can be helpful in the following ways:
- Answer questions about your medical condition.
- Ask the insurance representative to leave the room during the examination.
- Advise you on the questions that you are not legally bound to answer.
- Advise you on the physical activities you don’t need to perform.
Take notes on the examination and examiner
If present, your attorney will document the entire exam by including all the questions, remarks, and assumptions made by the doctor. They will also note the procedures performed and the time taken during the appointment.
Defend your rights
Injury attorneys have a deep understanding of the rules related to conducting these IMEs. They can prevent you from doing things that may compromise your right to compensation.
Get a Reliable Personal Injury Attorney in Mississippi on Your Side
Insurers regularly weaponize the system of independent medical examinations in personal injury cases to limit the compensation payout. The attorneys at Gardner Law Firm are prepared to fight insurance companies trying to take advantage of claimants when they are in a vulnerable position. To set up your free and confidential consultation, call us or reach out to us online.