If you're making a personal injury claim, you could be required to submit to an independent medical examination (IME) if your own insurer (like your car insurance company) requests it, or if you file a personal injury lawsuit. If an IME is set up for you, you can do some things to protect yourself during the exam—and afterward, if the report the doctor submits is inaccurate or harmful to your claim.
See if you can get a friend or family member to go with you to the exam. Explain to them ahead of time what the IME is about and what you would like them to do. They can take notes on exactly what time the doctor begins and ends the exam, what medical history or other questions the doctor asked you, what tests the doctor performed and how long they took, and other details that you might not remember. This person can act as a witness if you later have an argument with the insurance adjuster about the fairness or accuracy of the examination (see below). Having another person present also sometimes keeps the doctor from being rude or intimidating with you.
IMEs are conducted by doctors who regularly work for the insurance company. These doctors want to make the insurance company happy so that they can continue getting these lucrative exams referred to them. That means their reports to the insurance company tend to minimize the extent of accident victims’ injuries (in an IME after a car accident, for example). If that happens to you, there are several things you can do and say during your negotiations with the adjuster to counter the bad report.
Ask for a copy of the report. You should refuse even to discuss the report with your adjuster until you have a complete copy—not just portions of it or the adjuster’s version of what it says.
If the examination was in any way unfair—very brief or superficial, or taken without first getting a thorough medical history from you of your symptoms—then point this out to the adjuster. And tell the adjuster that the friend or family member who attended the IME with you can support your contention.
Point out to the adjuster any inaccuracy or incompleteness in the report, as an indication of its unreliability as a true measure of your injuries. If possible, use material from your own medical records to point out the problem.
Contrast for the adjuster the very brief extent of the IME with the much more significant time your own doctors have spent diagnosing and treating your injuries.
If the IME report is extremely negative and the adjuster is relying on it making you a low-ball personal injury settlement offer, you may want your own doctor—preferably a specialist who has been treating you—to write a response. Show your doctor the IME report and ask if the doctor would be willing to write a letter countering it. Be aware, however, that your doctor is likely to charge you for preparing a response. Find out in advance how much you will be charged so that you can decide whether what your doctor is willing to write seems worth the cost.
Ask for information about the IME doctor’s relationship with the insurance company. Put in writing to the adjuster a request for: the number of IME referrals the insurance company has given the particular doctor over the previous five years; the amount of money the doctor is paid for each IME; how many IMEs the doctor has performed for plaintiffs’ attorneys over the same period. There is no way the adjuster will provide you with this information. But refusing to provide it may put the adjuster on the defensive a bit in relying on the report while negotiating a settlement with you. (Get more tips for negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance company.)
For a step-by-step guide to the injury claim negotiation process—and everything else you need to know about dealing with an insurance company after an accident—get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo).