What Is IME in a Personal Injury Claim? Do Victims Need One?
When victims file a personal injury lawsuit in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the things they do not usually expect is to be asked to submit to an independent medical examination (IME). Although the insurance company may try to make IMEs seem routine and unimportant, victims should understand that an IME can have a huge impact on the personal injury case.
The most important thing to remember is that the so-called "independent medical examiner," is not independent at all, but is working on behalf of the insurance company. This means the IME doctor's diagnosis is not going to be favorable to plaintiffs in personal injury cases.
However, no law stops insurance companies from requesting independent medical examinations. As part of trying to negotiate a fair settlement, victims will often feel pressured to submit to an independent medical exam and provide their medical history.
This is why victims need to have a serious injury lawyer in Nashville by their side when trying to recover compensation after an injury caused by someone else's negligence. Rather than let the medical opinion of the insurance company's IME doctor undermine their personal injury suit, victims can call Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys and ask for a free consultation.
What Is an Independent Medical Examination?
An independent medical examination (IME) is a medical exam that the insurance company schedules as part of its investigations into the victim's personal injury claim. Many people rightly believe that an IME should be called a defense medical exam, because of how this medical report by the IME doctor performing the exam will be used to fight the victim's personal injury claim.
Insurance companies go to great lengths to disguise IMEs as routine investigations for medical evidence, but, in reality, victims need to remember that independent medical examinations are not meant for their benefit. When an IME is requested, victims need to know the following important facts:
The Victim's Doctor Is Not the IME Doctor
The request for the IME, selection of the IME doctor, and payment of any medical bills associated with the medical examination are handled by the insurance company. This alone should tell victims that the examining doctor is far from being an independent third party. Anything the victim does or says to the doctor during independent medical examinations can be used against them during a court case.
Also, the IME doctor is only required to conduct a medical exam of the injuries to help determine the validity of the victim's injury claims. They will not provide any treatment, and neither should the victim ask for it, because, again, this might be used against them during the personal injury lawsuit.
Medical Records Will Be Required
As part of the independent medical examination, the IME doctor might request the victim's medical records at some point. When this happens, victims must remember that the doctor is being paid to hunt for any prior injuries or dependence on pain medication that may derail the personal injury claim.
In that regard, when asked to sign a release form granting the IME doctor and insurance company access to their medical history, victims should:
Avoid signing open-ended releases that will give the insurance company unlimited access to their medical history
Remember to include an expiration date on any access given to medical records
Ask their doctors to send them copies of any information given to the insurance company
When Can the Insurance Company Request an IME?
Usually, an insurance company schedules an IME as part of the legal process after a victim brings a claim against the insurer, or files a personal injury claim after having sustained injuries caused by the at-fault party during, for example, a car accident.
If the victim has been injured by an uninsured driver, for example, and they have an insurance policy that entitles them to uninsured motorist benefits, this is the type of case where victims can make a claim against their own insurance company.
On the other hand, victims may also seek to collect damages to cover medical bills, lost wages, property damage, etc., from a third party. When this happens, the insurance company of the at-fault party may request an independent medical examination as part of its discovery, which is one of the early stages of the legal process during personal injury claims.
How Do Insurance Companies Use IMEs?
When the legislators in Tennessee approved using IMEs as part of the civil procedure in personal injury cases, they no doubt meant the physical examination to provide more transparency regarding the injuries sustained by the victim.
However, insurance companies usually find ways to use the IME report against the victim for the following reasons:
To Prove There Is No Injury
If an independent medical examination can prove that the victim did not suffer any injuries at all, this would be a huge win for the liable party. Without any injuries, there is no personal injury claim to speak of. This is the first thing the IME doctor will look for, usually by conducting some routine tests to see if any injuries exist.
To Show No Relationship Between the Injury and the Accident
The IME report may also be used to show that there is no relationship between the injuries sustained by the victims and the accident caused by the negligent party. This will defeat the causation, meaning the insurance companies will not be required to pay any damages. A good example is when the medical examiner can prove that the victim has a pre-existing condition that is causing their pain and suffering.
To Challenge the Settlement Amount
In cases where there is overwhelming evidence that the insurance companies are liable for the injuries sustained by victims, they may switch tactics and try to challenge the severity of the injuries. If they can prove that the victims were not injured as badly as they say, this can help them reach a much lower settlement agreement.
To Discredit the Victim
Finally, an IME report can be used to dispute the entire claim and discredit the victim by claiming that they are not being truthful about the injuries they sustained. This is usually the case when the doctor can prove factual mistakes or inconsistencies between what the victim said during the independent medical examination, and what they said when they first sought medical attention.
What Should Victims Expect During an Independent Medical Exam?
When victims go for an independent medical examination, the first thing they should expect is that they will be asked a lot of questions about the accident, their injuries, how long they will be off work, how they feel, and if they had any pre-existing injuries.
Also, there may be a lot of medical exams and tests conducted. However, it is also normal for the examination to be very brief. Usually, when the IME doctor can see that you are severely injured and that medical examinations will not discredit you, they may do a brief examination and move on to other tactics, such as looking at your medical history. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also advise on a last clear chance doctrine.
Preparing for Independent Medical Examinations
Going for an IME should not be an intimidating procedure for victims, especially if they have a good personal injury lawyer by their side. It is common for victims to do a bit of role-playing at their attorney's law firm so that they know what to expect during their independent medical examination.
Before going for the IME, victims should:
Review the copies of all the medical records sent to the insurer and the IME doctor so that they know what information the other party has
Look at any prior statements they may have given about the accident and the nature of their injuries
Seek advice from a qualified personal injury attorney and role-play how to withstand any cross-examination by the IME doctor.
Four Things to Remember After an IME
When the IME has been completed, it is not the end of the road. There is still a lot more to be done before the victim can expect to recover damages for the injuries sustained. The steps like releasing your medical records in a personal injury case are things the victim will take will have a huge impact on their chances of winning the lawsuit. As such, victims must remember to do the following:
Keep detailed notes about their entire experience during the independent medical examination, including any questions they were asked, tests that were done, how much time the exam took, and how they were treated by the IME doctor
Do some research on the IME doctor to determine how qualified they are to do the examination
Send a copy of the medical examination report to their own doctor for review
Consider hiring their own independent medical examiner, especially in cases where the IME report is particularly damaging to the personal injury claim and the reputation of the claimant
A Good Attorney Can Help With IME Requests for Personal Injury Claims
When asking the question "What is IME in a personal injury claim," victims need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to provide clarity and legal advice. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys is ready to go to war for victims in Nashville, Tennessee. They can call their law firm today, and schedule a free consult.