You Have Been Directed to Appear For An Independent Medical Exam(IME): What You Need To Know
I am scheduled for an Independent Medical Examination (IME). What do I need to know?
When you have a personal injury lawsuit, you will likely be directed by the insurance company to appear for what is called an independent medical examination (IME).
If you were involved in a New York State car crash you may be directed to appear for a New York no-fault IME, otherwise your insurance benefits can be canceled. For questions, you should talk to an attorney familiar with New York no-fault benefits, such as the personal injury attorneys at Feroleto Law in Buffalo New York.
The “Independent Medical Examination”, despite its name, is not independent.
The IME examining doctor is not independently selected by the Court, a government agency or independent agency. The insurance company can choose whichever doctor it likes. Unfortunately, the company often chooses a doctor well known to provide opinions very favorable to the insurance company. For a New York no-fault IME, if the doctor provides an opinion favorable to the insurance company, all of your medical and lost wage benefits can be terminated.
This work can be very lucrative for the doctor hired by the insurance company. Some of these doctors take in more than a $1,000,000 per year from the insurance companies, for the doctor’s review and opinions. These doctors, very often provide opinions favorable to the insurance company which hired them, and testify against injured people if there is a dispute, such as a lawsuit. This happens in cases even when there should be no dispute about injuries clearly identified by hospital personnel and seen on diagnostic tests such as MRIs and x-rays.
One example is very frequently hired doctor, Dr. L***y. In a recent case, a passenger, on her way to work, was injured in a major car crash. She went to a local hospital, was examined, and sent for x-rays and MRI. The radiologist at the hospital is a board-certified radiologist. Board certification requires extra training and passing rigorous examinations. The board certified radiologist reviewed x-rays and MRIs for the purpose of treating a hospital patient medically. He reported two fractures in her leg.
The patient was referred by the hospital to a board certified orthopedic surgeon for medical care. The treating orthopedic surgeon was highly regarded and also served as orthopedic surgeon to a number of professional sports teams. The orthopedic surgeon found the same two fractures as the radiologist.
The insurance company called on an insurance company favorite, Dr. L***y to perform an IME on its behalf. Dr. L***y is not a radiologist, he is not an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. L***y is a doctor who doesn’t even perform the surgeries he examines for. He readily provided opinions that there were no fractures and disputed the patient’s other injuries. The insurance company used this to dispute the case.
Many insurance companies keep calling this insurance friendly doctor to provide his opinions for court cases. Could it be that all the money he brings in from the court cases biases his opinion?
This is not to say all doctors who perform IMEs for insurance companies will intentionally provide skewed opinions to help the insurance company. Some doctors will provide fair opinions. Unfortunately, too many insurance companies intentionally select doctors known to consistently provide opinions very favorable to the insurance companies.
If you must appear for an independent medical examination for a personal injury case or New York no-fault claim, keep in mind the following.
- Determine in advance if your injury attorney wants you to sign or not sign papers at the IME doctor’s office.
- It is a good idea to bring someone else with you;
- That person can serve as an observer, record what was said, and what was done (record in writing, you shouldn’t secretly audio/video record);
- The IME doctor has likely reviewed, or will review, all of your medical records, including records from injuries you may have had many years before;
- If you don’t know, don’t guess. It is OK not to remember specific dates, if you don’t recall, let the doctor know that;
- Always tell the truth, never exaggerate!;
- Keep your answers short; extra words allow the other side greater opportunity to misinterpret what was said or create disputes, or to attack your credibility at trial;
- You are not there by choice. Don’t be lulled, if the doctor appears chatty or friendly. The doctor may be trying to get you to talk to obtain information for the defense lawyer to use against you.
- The questions you are asked should relate to your medical care and condition, not, for instance, whether you went on a vacation last year. Sometimes the doctor will misunderstand or misconstrue what you say.
- When you leave, write down everything that you remember about what was said, and what was done, such as the questions asked, your answers, and the tests the IME doctor performed.
Many clients are very surprised when reading the doctor’s examination reports. “I never said that!” is a common reaction. In a personal injury lawsuit, it can be hard for a trial attorney to challenge the defense doctor as these doctors often dispose of their notes so the doctor can’t be cross-examined at trial on what he or she wrote down. (I frequently ask the IME doctor on cross-examination, but doctor, you don’t dispose of your notes when you treat people to help them medically, do you?)
In summary, be prompt, be polite, during the history keep your answers short, keep track of the history portion and the physical examination portion of the visit, record the questions you are asked, your answers, and what physical tests the doctor did, such as asking you to walk on your toes, including how many steps you took, measuring your range of motion, etc. keep track of the time, particularly time of the actual physical examination, separate from the time it took for the doctor to ask you questions. If you were asked to fill out forms, such as history, or even authorizations; and your injury attorney had you
complete the forms, ask for a copy of what you signed. Provide all this information to your personal injury lawyer.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are injured due to the careless or reckless acts of another it can turn your world upside down. The Buffalo personal injury attorneys at Feroleto Law get it. We understand you may be worried about your lost wages, payment of medical bills, your rent or mortgage and how to take care of your family while you can’t work.
The fact is, often insurance companies try to settle the case as cheaply as possible, even when it is known their insured is at fault and your injuries are clear. Often, the insurance adjuster will only offer a very small amount to a person who doesn’t have an experienced personal injury lawyer. Dealing with insurance companies can be very frustrating,
You may need to hire a personal injury attorney. An experienced injury attorney may be able to settle the accident case because of his or her familiarity dealing with insurance companies. But sometimes a personal injury lawsuit must be brought. Some insurance companies wait until close to the time of trial, and then raise offer of settlement considerably.
Your lawyer will advise you of the pros and cons of settling. The Buffalo personal injury attorneys, at Feroleto Law will provide advice, based on years of experience, but you, the client always will have the ultimate say in whether to go forward. We will work together as a team, and will respect your decision on whether or not to bring the lawsuit.
If you have not commenced a lawsuit and are directed to appear for a New York no-fault independent medical examination, you may want to speak with a lawyer experienced in handling New York auto accident cases or truck accident cases to get advice. You can call Buffalo accident attorneys at Feroleto Law with questions. The New York no-fault independent medical examination, the IME, is important as the insurance company may rely on the no-fault independent medical examination to deny all future medical care and no-fault lost wages.
For any questions, without obligation, you can have a free confidential consultation with the Buffalo, New York accident attorneys at Feroleto Law. They have extensive experience in dealing with many of the doctors in Erie County, Niagara County, Monroe County, Cattaraugus County and Chautauqua County, and in upstate New York who regularly perform defense medical examinations or independent medical examinations for insurance companies. They have extensive experience in dealing with insurance companies and with personal injury lawsuits in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Batavia, and Dunkirk, New York. Your questions will be answered confidentially by John Feroleto, or one of the attorneys at Feroleto Law, by calling 716-854-0700.