Being injured on the job can result in serious consequences, including pain and suffering, lost wages and expensive medical bills. If you experience a workplace injury, it’s vital that you seek medical help as soon as possible. Even if you don’t initially feel injured after an accident, having an evaluation performed by a doctor is essential if you want to file a workers’ compensation claim.
What is an independent medical evaluation?
While it would be nice if the workers’ compensation process were simply a matter of visiting your doctor and filing some paperwork, things aren’t always that easy. Your employer’s insurance company may request an independent medical evaluation (IME) be completed in addition to your own doctor’s assessment.
The stated purpose of an IME is to ascertain your condition from a doctor who is supposed to be a neutral 3rd party to your case (at least in theory). But keep in mind that the insurance company is the one paying for the IME, and they typically only order one if they’re disputing the health issues identified by your original doctor.
When is an IME ordered?
Your employer’s insurance company will likely order an IME if you’re seeking compensation for injuries sustained on the job. Even if you’ve already sought medical care from your own doctor, the insurance company often requests an independent record of your injuries.
While this request is valid under Alabama workers’ compensation laws, it can make you feel as if you’re at odds with the insurer, and it can be a sign that the insurance company is trying to find a way to disprove your claim.
What happens during an IME?
Most IMEs will begin with a verbal discussion of your injuries, symptoms, chronic complaints and progress. During the discussion, you may be asked about the details that led to your injuries. You will likely be subjected to a physical examination of your injuries as well as relevant diagnostic testing in the office to determine the extent of your injuries and corroborate your claims.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that if you’ve already filed a workers’ compensation claim, your medical history and any recent medical treatment you’ve sought for your injuries will likely already be in the doctor’s hands. The doctor may look for inconsistencies or indications that you have provided inaccurate information on your medical records. This is where words really matter, as saying the wrong thing can potentially hurt your workers’ compensation case.
How do IMEs affect workers’ compensation claims?
In keeping with the above, an IME can have a significant impact on your workers’ compensation case. While the IME is supposed to be carried out to verify your injuries, it can also result in challenges to your claim.
For example, if you were injured due to a slip-and-fall accident at work, but, based on your recounting of the event, the IME doctor believes you were injured because you were overly tired on the day of the accident, this can become a stumbling block to receiving the compensation you deserve.
Should you sign consent or authorization forms?
Something else to be aware of is that you may be asked to sign consent or authorization forms prior to undergoing an IME. In many cases, these forms will be presented with complex legal language, and you may be given some vague explanation for why you need to sign them.
If you’re in doubt or have any questions about these forms, you’re encouraged to politely decline to sign anything. Ask to take the forms home for further evaluation. If you’re still unsure about the language included in these forms, you’re strongly encouraged to have an attorney review everything before signing.
The benefits of partnering with an Alabama workers’ comp attorney
An IME can be stressful and potentially lead to challenges in a workers’ compensation case, but you usually stand a much better chance of receiving the compensation you deserve by partnering with a workers’ compensation attorney.
Your attorney can meet with you to discuss the specifics of your case and injuries, but they can also gain access to your medical records (with your consent) and obtain statements from your own doctor and other experts to support your injury claims. This can be very beneficial in the event that an IME doctor attempts to contradict your injury claim.
If an insurance company is pressuring you into accepting an unfair or low-ball offer, your attorney can take over communications and negotiate with the insurance provider on your behalf. Together, you and your attorney can plot out a strategy to protect your interests and best represent your case before a judge if necessary.
How a workers’ compensation attorney protects you in court
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will be able to represent your interests, speak on your behalf and deal with the complexities of the legal system. Remember, despite the insurance company stating that an IME is “independent,” the insurer has a vested interest in paying out as little as possible for injury.
If your IME results are used to dispute your injury claim, your attorney will be able to represent the truth of your injuries based on the evidence as well as testimony from other physicians and expert witnesses.
Contact an Alabama workers’ compensation attorney
If you’ve been injured on the job in Alabama and are facing requests to take part in an independent medical examination for workers’ compensation, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Nomberg Law Firm today to ensure your rights are protected.
We know how hard it can be to pay your bills and get back on your feet while trying to recover from a workplace injury. Our attorneys have more than 50 years of experience dealing with employers and insurance companies to get injured workers the money they deserve.
About Nomberg Law Firm
Nomberg Law Firm has been helping people in Alabama recover fair compensation for their injuries since 1967. We know our clients are hard-working men and women who deserve the best representation possible.
We understand how hard it can be to pay your bills and get back on your feet while trying to recover from a serious injury. That’s why we dedicate our entire practice to fighting for your rights and obtaining maximum financial compensation.
The sheer number of clients at larger law firms means you’re one of many. As a small, family-owned injury law firm, we can focus on your needs, provide individualized assistance, and offer you one-on-one attention that larger firms simply cannot match.
Get the legal support you need to recover and move forward with your life.