After you have been hurt on a New York City construction site, it should be a comfort to know that employers are required to provide workers' compensation for the costs of the accident. Unfortunately, the insurance companies that are paying your workers' compensation benefits will want to pay out as little as possible in lost wages and medical bills, and will use any tactics they can to do it. One of these tactics is requiring you to attend an independent medical examination (IME) to gather evidence that can be used to devalue your claim.
Common Questions About Independent Medical Examinations
In theory, an independent medical exam can be a beneficial tool for either party in a work injury case. Since the exam is performed by someone other than the employee’s treating physician, it is essentially a second opinion on medical treatment and disability. However, the doctor who conducts the IME is usually chosen by the insurance company, presenting a blatant conflict of interest for the physician and an unfair advantage for the insurer.
A few basic facts about your independent medical exam:
How can it help me?
IMEs are usually requested to determine three factors: the extent of the injury, whether further treatment will have any effect, and whether any permanent damage is present. The exam can also be used to clear up questions of liability (especially if a contractor or third party is responsible for a construction accident).
How does it help the insurance company?
The insurance company will use the IME is to find any evidence they can use to reduce or terminate your benefits. This can range from reducing the percentage of your disability rating to questioning whether expensive medical treatments are necessary—or even claiming that your injury was not connected to your work.
Do I have to go?
Yes. If the employer requests an IME and you refuse to attend, the insurance company can use this to terminate your workers’ compensation benefits.
Who pays for it?
The insurance company is required to pay for the IME, including your costs of travel to the appointment. The insurer is also required to find a location for the exam that is reasonably near your home and easy for you to access.
How We Can Help During Your Independent Medical Examination
If you are asked to attend an IME, you should consult with an injury attorney as soon as possible. Everything you do and say throughout the exam can be used to reduce your benefits, and an experienced attorney will be able to protect your rights before, during, and after the examination takes place.
Your attorney can be invaluable in an IME by:
Preparing you for the exam.
Workers’ compensation attorneys know what insurers will be looking for during an exam, and can head off problems early by offering tips to the employee. Everything you say and do in the doctor's office will be noted. Any joking or exaggeration of your injury can be used to damage your credibility, while volunteering too much information can also damage your case. Even a few simple mock-trial questions can offer valuable insight into how to behave and respond during the exam.
Speaking on your behalf.
Most injury victims are nervous during the examination, and may say the wrong thing or forget to mention important details. When your attorney attends the examination with you, he or she will be responsible for asking pertinent questions about your medical condition and your limitations. He or she can also ask that the insurance company’s representative leave the room during the examination, advise you on which questions you do not have to answer, and advise you on physical activities you do not have to perform.
Taking notes on the doctor and the examination.
The attorney can document the entire exam, including the questions the doctor asked (and your responses), remarks or assumptions the doctor made, the tests or procedures performed, and how long the appointment took. He or she will also retain copies of any documents you fill out or sign in the doctor's office.
Defending your rights.
Injury lawyers are acquainted with the rules for conducting these exams, and can prevent you from doing anything that can hurt your right to compensation.
If you were injured while working on a New York City construction site, we will ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a construction injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.