Independent Medical Examinations

Independent Medical Examinations

When you are hurt on the job, you may be unable to work while you recover from your injuries. The Georgia workers’ compensation system is designed to ensure injured workers receive the medical treatment they need for workplace injuries. It also provides income benefits to assist injured employees who cannot work because of their injuries.

Unfortunately, the workers’ comp system favors employers and insurance providers. Instead of paying valid claims, insurance companies and employers make it difficult for injured workers to receive the workers’ comp benefits they deserve.

For example, one obstacle your employer and the insurance provider may use is an independent medical examination. 

What is an Independent Medical Examination?

An independent medical examination (IME) is a medical evaluation. The IME includes a physical examination performed by a doctor selected by your employer or its workers’ compensation insurance.

An IME may also include psychological and psychiatric examinations. Your employer is responsible for paying for the IME each time it requests an examination. 

Georgia Statute §34-9-202 gives an employer the right to schedule an IME as long as an employee receives workers’ compensation benefits. The employer may request an independent medical examination at any time, but the IME must be scheduled at a reasonable time and location. Therefore, an employee may be asked to take multiple IMEs throughout the workers’ compensation case. 

Am I Required to Submit to an Independent Medical Examination?

No, you cannot be forced to allow a doctor to examine you against your will. However, there are consequences for refusing to submit to an independent medical examination.

According to the statute, an employee who refuses to submit to an IME or in any way hinders the examination will have their workers’ compensation benefits suspended. 

In other words, you will not receive your income benefits, and workers’ compensation will not cover your medical bills. Additionally, your right to take legal action under your workers’ compensation claim is also suspended.

The suspension lasts for as long as you refuse to submit to the independent medical examination or hinder the examination. If you change your mind and submit to the IME, your workers’ comp benefits may resume. However, you will not receive your income benefits for the suspension period. 

You Have the Right to Have Your Doctor Present at the Independent Medical Examination 

The law gives you the right to have your physician or surgeon present at your independent medical examination. You are responsible for paying the fee your doctor charges for appearing at the IME. In this situation, your doctor can speak directly to the insurance company’s doctor.

The purpose of independent medical examinations is for the employer and the insurance company to verify your injuries. They also want a better understanding of your limitations and restrictions. 

However, most IMEs are scheduled because the employer or insurance provider wants to gather medical evidence it can use to deny your workers’ compensation claim or terminate your workers’ comp benefits.

Therefore, having your physician present at the independent medical examination means that your doctor can hear firsthand any discussion with the physician regarding your injury or medical condition. Your doctor is then in a better position to refute the findings of the IME doctor, if necessary.

Do I Need an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for an IME?

You are not required to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to represent you in a workers’ comp claim or at an independent medical examination. However, it is wise to meet with an attorney before an IME.

A workers’ compensation lawyer understands how insurance companies use the information from IMEs to terminate benefits and deny claims. An attorney can prepare you for the IME by explaining what to expect. They can also provide valuable insight into the do’s and don’ts of an independent medical exam.

Some things that you can do to prepare for an IME include:

  • Review your medical history so that you can answer questions the IME doctor asks during the examination
  • Gather documentation explaining how your workplace injury occurred 
  • Be specific when describing the pain and symptoms you are experiencing now

Do not lie to the IME doctor or exaggerate your injury or symptoms. Being caught in a lie or exaggeration destroys your credibility regarding subjective evidence (i.e., self-reported symptoms, pain levels, restrictions on activity, etc.). A medical professional can see through exaggerations. 

Avoid being defensive or adversarial, but do not act as if you do not have a care in the world. Instead, act professionally and present the facts calmly.

Call for a Free Consultation with an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Georgia’s workers’ compensation system can be confusing and frustrating. It can be worse when you need to appeal a denial of a claim. If you were injured on the job, you have the right to seek legal counsel about your case. 

Call our law office at 678-888-4878, to schedule a free consultation with our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney. We help injured workers receive the compensation they deserve for workplace injuries.