After you've filed a personal injury case, both parties start gathering evidence to use in court. Part of this process involves determining the extent of your injuries and your future ability to live and work. Most courts require you, the plaintiff, to undergo an independent medical examination (IME), or an examination by a doctor other than your usual physicians and specialists. The doctor then writes up a report about your medical condition, recommended treatment, and whether you're likely to suffer permanent impairment.
Do I Have to Undergo an Independent Medical Examination?
Generally, you'll only have an IME once your case has reached the lawsuit stage. If your attorney is still in settlement negotiations, you may not need to attend an IME. If the insurance company schedules an IME for you before a suit is filed, you should speak to your attorney to determine whether or not you should attend.
You're required to attend one or more medical examinations if:
- Your personal injury claim becomes a lawsuit. Once your personal injury suit is filed, your case must follow proper court procedure. All state courts require injury plaintiffs to attend at least one IME if the defendant requests it.
- You have more than one medical condition. If a plaintiff has a variety of medical complaints after an accident, such as a back injury and a traumatic brain injury, the defendant usually demands that the plaintiff have an evaluation by a specialist for injury.
- Your condition changes. If your condition changes significantly throughout the course of your case, the defendant might be able to request an updated IME that reflects your current injury level.
If you refuse to attend an IME, it's likely your case will be dismissed. Even if your case is allowed to continue, you may be prevented from presenting any medical evidence at trial, which can significantly hinder your case. For this reason, it's vital to stay calm and collected as you attend the examination, and make sure you do everything you can to protect your claim.
Your Rights When Undergoing an Independent Medical Examination After a Car Accident
An IME is supposed to be impartial, but there's often a conflict of interest because the defendant has the right to choose the doctor who performs the examination. Insurance companies have doctors on the payroll specifically for these exams, and using an IME to poke holes in your injury case is one of the many ways insurance companies devalue claims.
Although you have to attend the examination, you should be aware of the following provisos of an IME:
- You cannot be required to travel a long distance from your home to attend the exam.
- The defendant who orders the IME is required to pay for the costs of the exam.
- If the defendant doesn’t like the results from the first IME, it cannot request a second IME for the same condition.
- Your attorney may attend the examination.
- You have a right to review any correspondence between the insurance company and the IME doctor about your injuries.
- You have a right to correct any factual mistakes made by the IME doctor.
- You have a right to receive a copy of the IME doctor’s written report. If there are any errors about your treatment or medical history on the report, you can dispute them.
It's important to remember that an IME is different than an examination by your regular doctor. Anything you tell the IME physician is not protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, and can be used against you in court. The best course of action is to be straightforward and truthful with the doctor, and not to offer any information that's not requested. Resist the urge to exaggerate about your injuries or limitations, as this can hurt your credibility with a judge.
If you need help after a serious injury, our accident attorneys can walk you through the next steps in your case. We don't charge any upfront fees in injury claims, so call us today to get started on your case evaluation.