Independent Medical Examination for Workers Compensation

If you’ve been injured on the job, maneuvering your way through filing a workers’ compensation claim can be overwhelming. One requirement you’ll encounter is undergoing an Independent Medical Examination (IME). Typically requested by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company (or sometimes by your attorney), this exam is critical in determining:

  • The nature and extent of your injury or injuries.
  • Your ability to return to work.
  • The medical treatment or treatments you require.

While IMEs are meant to be objective, there’s often a concern the insurance company’s doctors will be biased toward the insurer, minimizing injury severity to limit payouts. Consulting with a workers’ compensation attorney before undergoing an IME is a wise move, as it helps you understand your rights and ensures you receive the compensation you’re entitled to.

What Is an Independent Medical Examination for Workers’ Compensation?

IMEs are medical assessments performed by doctors who aren’t previously involved in an injured worker’s care. The exams can have a significant impact on your workers’ comp case, dictating what medical treatment you need, when you can go back to work, and whether you have a permanent disability.

Workers injured on the job typically see their primary physician for evaluation and treatment recommendations. If your employer’s insurance company disputes any of your doctor’s conclusions or treatment plans, you’ll be asked to submit to an IME with a doctor who is, at least in theory, neutral.

doctor standing by patient entering machine for exam

What Happens During an Independent Medical Examination for Workers’ Compensation?

As you prepare for your IME, knowing why you must submit to it, its implications, and how it impacts your workers’ compensation claim can help lessen any apprehension you might have. A typical IME includes:

  • An objective assessment: The examining doctor reviews existing medical records, conducts a physical examination, and might order additional tests before forming an opinion on your injuries or illness.
  • Work-related determination: The IME helps to verify that your injury or illness is, in fact, work-related, an essential factor in workers’ comp claims.
  • Extent of injury or disability: The exam evaluates your injury’s severity and the disability level, if any.
  • Return-to-work evaluation: The IME physician might issue an opinion on whether you’re able to return to work and whether restrictions or special accommodations apply.
  • Dispute resolution: If there’s a disagreement between your personal physician and the insurance company’s doctor about your injury, the IME serves as a tool for resolving any debates or challenges.
  • Patient rights and responsibilities: As the patient undergoing the IME, you have the right to privacy and respectful treatment. You’re also responsible for providing accurate information and cooperating with the examination process.

As the IME’s results can significantly impact your workers’ comp claim, including the approval or denial of benefits, enlisting the help of a skilled workers’ compensation attorney can benefit your case immensely. They offer expert guidance and advice, ensuring your claim is presented accurately and effectively while maximizing your chances of a favorable outcome.

How the Most Recent Policy Changes Affect Workers’ Compensation Medical Examinations

In 2018, House File 518 made substantial changes to Iowa’s workers’ compensation law, some of which make it vital to speak with a workers’ comp attorney as you pursue your claim.

  1. Legal safeguards: The legislation protects employers from “excessively litigious individuals.”
  2. Decreased benefits: The law reduces workers’ comp benefits and adjusts the benefit qualifications, with the aim of stabilizing insurance costs while providing necessary employee protections.
  3. Legal fees: Attorneys cannot collect fees from an injured worker if the employer was voluntarily giving benefits.
  4. Dual compensation elimination: Injured employees can no longer receive workers’ compensation while also receiving unemployment insurance.
  5. Injury benefits changes: The law’s provisions include a 68% reduction in shoulder injury benefits. However, they also offer community college training to help injured workers in this category return to the workforce.

These and other changes to the state’s workers comp law are projected to reduce payments by the Workers’ Compensation Fund by approximately $1.8 million annually.

Consult a Workers’ Compensation Attorney About Your IME

The workers’ comp attorneys at Peters Law Firm have years of experience and expertise assisting injured employees in their workers’ compensation claims, including those involving IMEs.

Contact our firm today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about protecting your rights.

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