When you are involved in a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim, the other party will often request additional verification of the claimant’s medical condition. This is typically done by asking the claimant to undergo an independent medical exam (IME), also known in Connecticut and some other states as a respondent medical exam (RME).
An IME/RME is often requested when there is a disagreement between the parties regarding the extent of an injury, or when the claimant’s physician is recommending surgery or another type of medical procedure. Essentially, the respondent is requesting a “second opinion” from a supposedly independent medical examiner.
In most cases, the examiner is likely to be anything but “independent”. Usually the examiner is a person who is selected by the employer or their insurance company and is someone who has performed other exams for them in the past. Just the fact that the parties have a working relationship means that the examiner is at least somewhat incentivized to find in favor of the employer or their insurer, which is likely to cloud their judgment.
How Should I Prepare for an IME/RME?
Knowing that the medical examiner you are going to see is likely to be biased in favor of the other side, you should approach this situation with caution. Remember, the ultimate goal of the other side is to either find a basis to deny your claim outright, diminish the value of your claim, or deny you a medical procedure that you need.
Just because this is an adversarial situation, that does not mean it is reason for panic. Independent medical exams are requested frequently in these types of cases, and with proper preparation, you can successfully clear this hurdle and help bring your claim to a favorable conclusion.
Here are some of the most important steps to take to help get you through your IME/RME:
Prepare Ahead of Time
Before the examination occurs, the respondent will send your medical records and any other documents that are related to your injuries to the medical examiner. The respondent may also write a letter to the examiner posing various questions about your injuries. You should try to obtain a copy of any letter sent to the examiner, so you can review it ahead of time for inaccuracies. If you are working with an attorney, your attorney can handle this for you.
You should also be intimately familiar with your medical history. The examiner will already have this in front of them, including information about previous injuries and medical conditions. Take some time to review your medical records in detail, so you fully understand what the examiner is referring to when you are asked a question about it. Finally, bring some notes along with specific dates, locations of injuries and other important information.
Bring Someone with You to Your Appointment
You should always have someone along with you for your IME/RME appointment. This way, if there is ever a dispute about what was said or what happened during the exam, you will have a witness to confirm the facts. Ideally, you should have a nurse or other health professional along to accompany you, so they are able to provide more authoritative testimony. But if all else fails, bring a family member or close friend.
Be sure to allow yourself plenty of travel time to get to the location of your exam. Arriving late could cause you to miss your appointment, which could be detrimental to your claim. Leave for your appointment early and make sure to account for any potential traffic delays.
Stay on Guard
Keep in mind that you are most likely to be under observation from the moment you pull up in the parking lot. Assume that the inside and outside of the building are under video surveillance, and that your every move is being watched carefully.
Be Honest and Cooperative
Always be honest and polite with the examiner, and never exaggerate your symptoms or the extent of your injuries. This is why it is a good idea to thoroughly understand your medical history, so you can give accurate answers to the examiner’s questions. Along these same lines, be courteous and cooperative with the examiner and other staff. There is nothing to be gained by being combative and argumentative in this type of situation.
Take Detailed Notes
After you leave the examiner’s office, write down or record in as much detail as possible what happened during your appointment. Note the questions the examiner asked you, the tests that you were given, what the examiner told you, and other important details. It is best to do this as soon as possible after you leave the office while everything is still fresh in your mind.
Consult your Attorney for Additional Guidance on Preparing for an IME/RME
For more information on what you can expect during an independent medical exam (or respondent medical exam) and how to prepare for it, speak with your attorney (if you have one). Your attorney can give you counsel and advice that is more specific to your claim.