Apr 05, 2021 Car Accidents, Personal Injury
How Do I Prepare for an “Independent Medical Examination?”
If you’re involved in a car accident lawsuit or another personal injury claim, the insurance company might schedule an “independent medical examination” (IME) for you. However, these exams are rarely independent or neutral. Instead, the adjuster is scheduling your exam with a doctor they trust—one whose reports consistently favor the insurer and might weaken your case’s settlement value.
Our injury lawyers are very familiar with IME doctors, their tactics, and how to fight back against their damaging reports. In today’s blog, we examine how to get ready for an IME exam with good preparation, the right approach, and a great personal injury lawyer.
What Is an IME?
An “independent medical examination” is an insurance company-requested medical evaluation. Under Texas law, an insurance company can send you to one of its doctors if there a genuine dispute concerning your medical condition. However, they must provide you with a copy of the doctor’s report or findings.
While insurance companies call these evaluations “IMEs,” the doctors are rarely neutral. The claims adjuster will almost always choose a doctor who reliably discredits crash victims by questioning the severity of their injuries, implying that they’re exaggerating their symptoms, or disputing their need for ongoing medical care.
Many of these doctors conduct dozens or even hundreds of IMEs every year for a handful of insurance companies. And since these examinations are hardly “independent,” our injury lawyers refer to them as defense medical examinations (DMEs).
Do I Have to Attend a Defense Medical Examination?
In most cases, you will need to attend a scheduled DME. If you don’t show up to the examination, you could damage your case. However, that doesn’t mean you should go in unprepared.
There are simple ways you can protect yourself during an insurance company’s medical examination. While they might take a little preparation, they’re worth the effort.
Now, let’s explore some of the common tactics that insurance companies use during their medical examinations.
Watch Out for These Common DME Tactics
Even if the insurance company’s doctor seemed “nice” during your exam, their reports will try to weaken your case, often using the following tactics:
- Blaming your “degenerative” conditions brought on by age and wear and tear”
- Suggesting that you’re lying or exaggerating your symptoms
- Arguing that the crash didn’t cause your injuries, even linking them to conditions you’ve never been diagnosed with
- Digging through your medical records to “uncover” previous injuries and trauma that could have caused your problems
- Implying that you’ve fully recovered and no longer need medical care
- Saying that you can return to work
But how do they do this? Sometimes, the doctor will spin your words or leave out essential details. However, other tactics are more sophisticated.
For example, the doctor might refuse to let you record the examination or deny your request to have a witness present. However, without documentation of the exam, it can be impossible to detect mistakes or misconduct that negatively affect your results.
Suppose you have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and you’re scheduled for a neuropsychological exam. These exams involve a great deal of testing—which can be stressful and difficult when you have memory and concentration problems.
During your testing, the neuropsychologist repeatedly enters the room, grabbing paperwork out of cabinets and chatting with you. It’s distracting, and you perform poorly on the tests. In their report, the doctor might argue that your results were so bad that you must have been exaggerating your symptoms and trying to manipulate the results.
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Stick to This Checklist to Beat an DME
Attending a defense medical examination can be nerve-wracking. Not only will you be examined by a licensed doctor who wants to disprove your medical condition and damage your credibility. To “beat” an IME and strengthen your case, you should take several precautions to ensure you are properly prepared for your appointment.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
You should never attend an IME before speaking with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. In fact, you should never speak with an insurance adjuster before doing so either. These physicians and adjusters often come off as friendly and helpful, but they want to prove that you are not injured and do not deserve financial compensation.
A trusted lawyer with extensive IME experience will help you understand exactly what to expect based on your specific circumstances and investigate the examining physician’s billing records and history as a medical expert, especially in similar cases. Your lawyer should also demand legal protections during your examination and thoroughly depose the examining doctor to force them to provide the specific medical basis for each of their conclusions.
Assume You’re Under Surveillance
No, we are not being paranoid. Insurance companies, adjusters, and attorneys commonly hire private investigators to follow you in-person and online to disprove your claims and credibility. They will look tirelessly for any sign that you are either exaggerating or lying about your medical condition.
Surveillance is particularly common before and after a DME. The investigator will monitor your activities, looking for inconsistences in the days surrounding the exam. For example, suppose you report severe hip pain that makes it hard to walk during the medical evaluation. However, several days before the exam, the investigator filmed you walking your dog and playing catch with your child. Even if you spent the rest of the day on the couch in pain, the insurance company will argue that you’re exaggerating your symptoms.
If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit or already in the process of doing so, you should immediately suspend all your social media accounts and ask your friends and family to avoid discussing you, your claim, or your medical condition until after you have settled the claim. In addition, do not perform any activity in public that would lead anyone to believe that you are being insincere about your injuries or illness.
Be Polite, but Know Your Legal Rights
During a DME, you should also answer every question honestly and directly. Do not attempt to downplay your injuries and be sure to let the doctor know about any pain or symptoms you have been experiencing since the original incident. The physician is supposed to document these statements, which you can use later when attempting to prove your claim and the extent of your condition.
However, be sure to report any improper, illegal, or unethical conduct. The doctor must treat you with the respect and decency you deserve, and if you feel they have done anything to insult or degrade you, let your attorney know immediately.
Lastly, the insurance company must send your medical records to the examining physician. If they did not do so, that is on them — not you. So, if they try to claim the examination is incomplete or that you need to return, let them know that the fault is theirs and that your attorney will be contacting them shortly to set the matter straight.
Record the Examination or Have a Witness Present
Unless there is a court order disallowing it, you should record the examination, and bring a family member with you to document the entire appointment with a camera or on their phone. This forces the examining physician to perform the defense medical examination ethically and honestly while also giving your lawyer the chance to dispute certain aspects of the examination.
Having a recording or a witness is particularly important when you’ve suffered a TBI or another injury that affects your memory, speech, thinking, or decision-making. If the insurance company’s doctor abuses their power or makes misstatements, you might have a hard time explaining what happened in the exam room—and you don’t want to get caught in a game of “he said, she said” with one of these hand-picked experts.
When there’s a video recording of your examination, your attorney can have another expert review the footage and identify any issues or misconduct that occurred during the appointment. This can reduce the DME doctor’s harmful testimony and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact Crosley Law to Learn More About Independent Medical Examinations
You are already the victim of an avoidable injury or illness; don’t become the victim of an invasive IME, too. These examinations signal that the insurance company is escalating their investigation of your claim and that they are becoming increasingly desperate to dispute your case and avoid responsibility.
To learn more about how to prepare for an IME and pursue a successful personal injury claim, please contact us today by calling 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or completing this brief form. Our trusted personal injury attorneys have the skill and experience you need to get the financial compensation you deserve and are eager to learn more about your claim today.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or medical advice on any subject.
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