How Credible is Your IME Report?
I recently appeared on a workers’ compensation (“WC”) case in which the claimant’s attorney had him complete a questionnaire after he attended an independent medical examination (“IME”). I have redacted the claimant’s personal information and the doctor’s name to protect their privacy. So, you can review the form by clicking the link below.
You’ll notice that the claimant had some harsh comments about the credibility of the examining physician. He alleged that the physician only spent about two minutes with him, which certainly is not enough time to conduct a complete intake and range of motion study. Assuming the information in this report is correct, we would have serious problems with this evidence, if we were forced to go to trial. Fortunately, in this particular case, a trial will not be required. We caught a break, and it gave me this perfect opportunity to remind you a few things about the IMEs:
- The IME report is evidence. By signing the report, the examining physician is averring that its contents are accurate. Make sure it is. He or she must follow the respective medical guidelines to reach all conclusions.
- Employers, carriers and third-party administrators might speculate and expect a particular opinion, but the examining physician’s role is still give an accurate opinion based on the guidelines in light of a complete examination and records review. If the opinion sought is incorrect under the circumstances, the claims examiner will accept a well-reasoned opinion and adapt the resolution strategy accordingly. The goal is not to produce a “no disability report” in every case but to reach the most accurate conclusions so appropriate care and claims handling can be rendered. An opinion that can not be upheld on cross-examination is useless.
- Doctors are busy, like Judges. Help them see the issues in the case by organizing the records to be reviewed and provide relevant information such as job descriptions, accident reports, photographs, and videotaped surveillance. Make it easy for them to see why you question what you do, but let the evidence do the “talking” for you.
- Finally, ensure the report is timely filed and served on all parties.
NOTE: This post is a general overview of the use of IMEs to defend (or mitigate damages in) WC claims. It is not legal advice, and there is certainly no guarantee that any of the actions detailed above will generate a similar or specific result. Past success is never a guarantee of a future outcome. If you require information or advice applied to your unique situation, please make an appointment to discuss it with an attorney. Don’t rely solely on what you read on the Internet.
Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a former Employee Relations Representative/Human Resources Supervisor and has been litigating workers' compensation matters for employers and claimants since 2002. Trained in mediation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), she also mediates business and employment conflicts. She takes a mediator's approach, even to litigation, with the goal of leaving her clients more empowered than she found them, regardless of the outcome.