What Is An Independent Medical Examination (IME)?
An IME is a medical evaluation to determine the status of a worker’s medical condition. The IME doctors answer questions, written by Washington State L&I or self-insured employers, regarding whether a worker’s claim-related medical condition has reached maximum medical improvement, whether any further treatment is necessary, whether there are work restrictions and whether any permanent impairment remains.
Who Requests an IME?
- Labor & Industries.
- Self-Insured employers.
- Your doctor (this could be a problem).
Why Is It Being Scheduled?
IME’s are scheduled by L&I and Self-Insured employers because they want information. Claims managers generally want to close claims, segregate out medical conditions, or to end medical care. They do this by scheduling and IME with doctors who will help them “manage” a claim. These medical opinions allow them to have their way with your L&I claim.
What If I Need to Reschedule?
- Contact your claims adjuster immediately and request a different date.
How to Prepare for an IME
- Bring in an observer – This can be a friend or a relative. Your friend or relative can attend your medical exam, but not your psychiatric exam. This observer can see and take note of anything the IME doctors do which may not be appropriate. They can also note how much time was spent examining you versus how much time was spent reading your records.
- Refrain from taking pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication prior to the examination, if allowed by your physician. This will enable the examiners to objectively view your problems.
- Don’t volunteer information. Don’t offer opinions. Don’t overly compliment your doctor.
- Don’t be offended by the doctors questions. It’s their job to get personal about your injury.
What Happens at the Examination?
- The physicians will take your medical and family history, ask about current symptoms, and perform a short physical examination with testing. They may request x-rays or lab tests, and they will write a report for L&I or the self insured employer with their findings and their opinions.
- The IME doctors will perform a one time exam and focus only on industrially related conditions. These physicians are not your treating physicians! These IME doctors are paid by L&I and self-insured employers to produce a report with certain results. These examinations are not designed to assist injured workers with their claims! Be careful!
- Some of the physicians actually watch you from the minute you leave your car until you return and drive away. It is not uncommon to see IME reports which say things like “he ran from his car to the office, but began to limp when he entered the exam room.” Be careful!
- Independent Medical Examination doctors can be tricky so keep the following in mind:
- Light touch to any area should not hurt
- Do not exaggerate or fake your injuries. Many IME doctors want you to exaggerate your injuries so they can say that in their report.
- The distraction test involves pretending to test one area, while recreating the same test to a different area. For example, if the doctor is testing your neck he might do so obviously in front of you. Later he might test it via distraction by asking you questions while he walks behind you. He is looking to see how you rotate your neck when you don’t realize your neck is being tested.
- Dropping a pen or other object on the floor is used to see if you will either pick it up quickly or look at it quickly and thereby make movements that you would not have made while you think you are being tested.
Will I Get Reimbursed for Missing Work and for Mileage?
- Missing Work – Yes! Based on your hourly wage at the time of the examination.
- Mileage – Yes! Meals, hotel expenses, taxi fare, parking costs, and ferry and bridge tolls. These will be paid at the current department rate. SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS!!! You must complete a travel reimbursement form within one year of the exam and include your receipts. Travel reimbursement form.
- If you have a physical or mental disability, travel arrangements can be made to assist in your traveling to the exam.
Can I Complain About My IME?
- Yes! By sending a complaint letter or a completed IME comments form. Complaints should be sent to:
IME Quality Assurance
Provider Review & Education Unit
Labor & Industries
PO Box 44322
Olympia, WA 98504-4322
Chris Sharpe is a Seattle, Washington workers’ compensation attorney that has helped hundreds of injured Washington State workers. Chris’s firm represents only individuals who have been injured or are disabled, never the employer or insurance company. Learn more about the firm or contact us today to see how we can help.