When a person is injured in a car accident, the most important step they should take (after calling the police and getting a copy of the Police Traffic Collision Report) is to make an appointment with a doctor for medical evaluation of any possible injuries or other medical conditions that may have been caused by the accident.
For injured accident victims, medical records and treatment history become very important pieces of physical evidence in the event that the person wishes to pursue a personal injury claim. Doctors' notes and other types of medical records serve as proof that the victim has been injured and that the injuries were caused by the accident (assuming that is consistent with the doctor's professional medical opinion), which places liability square on the person responsible for the accident.
However, people are often surprised - and even reasonably frustrated - to learn that they will be forced to undergo what is called an Independent Medical Examination, or IME, at the request of the insurance company or companies involved in the claim.
Why Do I Have To Attend An IME?
Your insurance company has the contractual right to have you physically examined by a medical doctor of their choosing so that they may have the opportunity to review your diagnosis and treatment history. On the surface, this sounds like a fair process for giving balance to both sides of the insurance claim.
Insurance companies like to push the narrative that these examinations are "Independent," but the reality is the opposite. The doctors who are routinely chosen by insurance companies to conduct IMEs are often under pressure to deliver results that are favorable to the insurance company's position. The insurance companies pay these doctors to perform an IME, and staying in the insurer's good graces is the best way for doctors to receive repeat business opportunities as a preferred IME physician.
The insurance companies use these one-time exams (or in some cases, a one-time review of just your medical records) as an opportunity to find excuses for terminating benefits, regardless of whether you would benefit or are still benefiting from additional medical treatment for your injuries.
If you find yourself being requested to submit to an "Insurance Medical Exam," here are a few suggestions.
- First, before submitting to an exam, read your policy! The insurance company's right to request an exam is contained within the insurance contract. Review it to make sure the company is not violating any of the policy provisions.
- Second, you really should consider hiring an attorney. Recent case law has suggested that the "IME" report may be discoverable by the third party tortfeasor, providing additional ammunition for the defense attorney. Attorneys can often insist that the exam be delayed and insist that an impartial observer be present during the exam.
- Third, make sure you give the examiner an accurate description of your prior health problems, current complaints, and the facts of the crash. Any discrepancies will be used against you.
- Lastly, recognize that the examiner will be looking for signs that you may be exaggerating your injuries - the way you walk into the examination room, how comfortably you sit, how long you sit, facial expressions, and so on.
If you have been injured in an accident and the insurance company is asking you to attend an Independent Medical Examination, you may benefit from consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer who has experience handling auto accident injury claims.
The legal team at Davis Law Group can help you better understand your legal rights before you attend an IME. We can also help you make an informed decision about whether you would benefit from hiring an attorney to handle your case. Call our office in Seattle at (206) 727-4000 to request a free legal consultation with our staff today.