Insurance companies, trying to sound official, will often request victims of collisions to get an Independent Medical Examination (IME).
This is a classic example of doublespeak. The insurance companies themselves coined the term "Independent Medical Exam." The examiners are doctors, true, but the also like working regularly, meaning the doctor who is examining you might have a bias toward the company footing the bill.
Is An 'Independent Medical Exam' Really Independent?
Insurance companies only have one opportunity to have the claimant examined by an “independent” physician as part of their defense. The purpose of this examination is to find as much medical evidence as possible that can then be used against the victim during settlement negotiations.
If the case goes to trial, then the physician who performed the exam, the insurance company's doctor, will likely be used as an expert medical witness against the plaintiff.
Insurance companies tend to hire the same doctors over and over again in order to build a relationship that benefits their bottom line. These supposedly “independent” doctors now have an incentive to be biased towards the insurance companies’ defense.
The doctor likely has experience with performing IMEs and knows what to look for during the examination to build the insurance company’s defense. In many cases, the doctor performing the IME will report a number of things to weaken the victim’s case. These include:
- Determining that the victim’s injuries were caused by a previous accident or medical condition
- The victim was not injured as severely as his or her own doctor believes
- The victim did not suffer any significant injuries as a result of the accident
How Do I Deal With The Independent Medical Examination?
Almost all insurance policy contracts require accident victims to undergo an IME in the event of a car accident. You may not have realized it at the time, but signing your insurance policy contract enters you into an agreement with the insurance company that you will undergo an IME if you do make a claim against them.
If at all possible, it is best to bring someone that will act in your best interests along with you to the IME.
Ideally, this would be a qualified healthcare professional who can judge the fairness and accuracy of the examination, but a spouse or friend will be beneficial as well. Either way, you want someone who can testify about the examination in court if there is a dispute over what happened during the IME.
It may also be beneficial for you to draft an official statement of the accident and injuries that you suffered as a result, preferably with the help of your lawyer. Putting a statement about the accident and subsequent injuries in writing will make your case very clear to the physician and help you avoid mistakes that the physician can use against you later.