What is an Independent Medical Exam (IME), really?
In Washington State if you are making an injury-related claim or filing a peronal injury lawsuit the insurance carrier has a right to have you examined by a doctor of their choosing. This is usually referred to as an Independent Medical Examination (IME). So-called Independent Medical Exams or IMEs are often ordered by insurance companies to prove or disprove the validity of injures. But typically there is absolutely nothing “independent” or unbiased about this examination.
What is an Independent Medical Exam (IME), really? An IME is a medical examination paid for by the insurance company with the hope that the doctor they hired to perform the exam will be able to minimize your condition or find some medical reason that will allow them to eliminate or reduce their obligation to fully compensate you for your injuries.
The “independent” physician that the insurance company is paying to examine you wants to find ways to prove that you are exaggerating your condition, or just pretending to be injured.
Some doctors make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year performing IMEs for the same insurance companies over and over again. These doctors are paid a lot of money by the insurance company to say that you are not injured or that your injuries are not as severe as you are reporting. If they were to give the insurance company reports that said that patients were really, severely injured and deserved a large settlement for medical treatment do you think that the insurance company would ever hire them again? No, of course not.
An in-depth investigation conducted by The New York Times exposed some questionable medical practices. The report uncovered the fact that insurance companies hire doctors that they know will downplay the severity of injuries for these “independent” exams. Not wanting to hurt their chances of earning more money in the future through insurance-ordered exams doctors willingly play along. As a doctor was quoted in the story: “If you did a truly pure report… you’d be out on your ears and the insurers wouldn’t pay for it. You have to give them what they want…that’s the game, baby.”
The problem is so wide spread that attorneys representing injury victims often refer to IMEs as “insurance medical exams” rather than “independent medical exams”.
So what should you do if you are subjected to an IME?
• Tell it like it is. Don’t exaggerate or minimize your problems. Be truthful. Be sure to mention all of the injuries that you suffered as a result of the accident—major and minor.
• Don’t talk to the doctor about the insurance company, insurance adjusters or attorneys.
• Do not discuss what you think you may deserve as a settlement or award.