What if an Independent Medical Examination Doctor Doesn’t Agree with My Doctor?

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IME doctorAs I have written previously,  in Nebraska, you have the right to choose your family doctor to treat you for your work injury.  For purposes of the workers’ compensation court, that person becomes your “treating doctor.”  However, sometimes an employer or insurance provider selects a non-treating doctor for an “independent medical examination” (IME). According to the workers’ group National Association of Injured & Disabled Workers (NAIDW), IMEs are used for three reasons:

  1. “to determine the cause, extent and medical treatment of a work-related or other injury where liability is at issue”
  2. “whether an individual has reached maximum benefit from treatment”
  3. “whether any permanent impairment remains after treatment”

When an IME is scheduled, this probably means your employer or the insurance company is trying to fight some aspect of your workers’ compensation benefits.  An IME doctor frequently bases his or her findings on what is often a very brief visit with a patient.  Sometimes they don’t even perform a physical examination before rendering their opinion.  Rarely do they issue opinions that are favorable to an injured worker.  For that reason, when an examination like this is scheduled, my policy is to file a Petition with the Court if one is not already on file.  The IME doctors can recommend medical treatment, but should not render that treatment because they are not the worker’s treating doctor and therefore do not have a “doctor/therapist-patient relationship.” If you allow them to perform medical treatment, you may have unwittingly transferred your medical care to this hired gun.

Ultimately it’s up to the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court (or an arbiter or court in your particular state) to determine which doctor’s opinion is more credible.

When an IME is scheduled, your attorney can be your advocate.  If you don’t have an attorney when the exam is scheduled, you should at least consult with one before attending the IME.  It’s important to ensure the IME doctor has all the relevant records before forming opinions, takes a valid history, and is qualified in the medical specialty at issue.  It’s also important to contrast the findings of the IME doctor against the findings of the treating doctor.  Ultimately, it’s up to the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court (or an arbiter or court in your particular state) to determine which doctor’s opinion is more credible.  Often your attorney will find that the IME doctor’s practice is largely based on doing these cursory exams, which creates a bias to report findings that the insurance companies will like, often mischaracterizing the medical notes or the injured worker’s history.

Be sure to prepare for your IME with your attorney.  You should go into the appointment with the understanding that every word you use may be used against you if the opportunity presents itself.  It may be that no matter what you say the doctor has already made up his or her mind.  However, even if you do not agree with the IME doctor, you should not confront or argue with them. Let your lawyer do that in court, where it matters.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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3 thoughts on “What if an Independent Medical Examination Doctor Doesn’t Agree with My Doctor?

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  3. Carrie

    What happens when their IME dies confirm your claim, states you are not MMI and are unable to work including inability to do light duty? This is my situation right now. I now have several IME’s confirming RSD including their surgeon that performed my surgery and one of their IME reports. Of course my attorneys IME’s confirm and my private treating dr confirms. My RSD was confirmed through the objective finding with uptake in a 3 phase bone scan along with color changes, temp changes, swelling and severe aldynia which actually ALL the doctors note. 5 months later, after latest IME they have claimed to have a treatment offer but nothing has been made of it. Also I have a question they are talking about sending me to a clinic in Florida for 30 days in a program that is about taking all of the medication that my treating dr has me on for a disease with no cure, can I deny that treatment in the basis that it is unreasonable. I live in MO so it is unreasonable to make my treating dr in FL. That it is unreasonable to take a mother away from her child. That it is unreasonable to change my treatment without consulting my treating dr. That their IME recommended treatment at a facility in my state in which my dr is a part of.


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