Independent Medical Exams in Car Accident Cases
How to Prepare and What to Expect
If you are hurt in a car crash, your first step in recovering compensation is usually filing an injury claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration requires motorists to carry certain minimum levels of auto insurance for exactly this reason – to cover the costs and other losses you incur because of your injuries. However, the claims process is usually much more involved than simply filling out some forms. The insurer’s claims adjuster will typically conduct a thorough review of all your supporting documentation, including information regarding your injuries. You may even receive a notification requesting an Independent Medical Examination (IME).
Why Would I Need to Undergo an IME?
There are many factors that an insurance company will review when determining whether to settle an injury claim and how much to offer. One of the key issues is the nature and severity of your injuries and another is your lost wages – which are closely tied to your injuries. It is true that you probably have plenty of information and medical records from the physician who treated you after the accident. You may also have notes and test results from your own physician if you made an appointment to follow up. While all of these medical records regarding diagnosis and treatment are important, the insurance company’s claims adjuster may want to conduct its own analysis. This is where the IME enters the picture.
The insurer’s objective with an IME is to receive a medical diagnosis and other details through an independent health care provider. The term “independent” can sometimes be misleading in this context, since this doctor is retained and paid by the insurance company. Even when the physician is described as a purportedly neutral third-party, you are probably right to be suspicious. Especially if the doctor does a large amount of work for the insurance company or earns a substantial amount of money from referrals for the insurance company.
Are There Any Restrictions on an IME?
There are some reasonable limitations on an insurance company’s request for an IME, such as:
- The insurer must provide proper notice on the time and location of the exam;
- You must receive information on the scope and focus of the IME;
- Unless there are pressing circumstances, you should only have to go through one IME;
- The insurance company must pay for the exam; and,
- The health care provider that conducts the IME must be available for cross-examination by your own lawyer, either through a deposition, at trial, or both.
What Happens With the IME Results?
The doctor who conducts the exam will prepare a report that is similar to what your physician does when you attend a routine check-up. However, it will include:
- The specifics of your injuries and treatment that has already been provided;
- A summary of your medical records;
- Findings on diagnosis and prognosis;
- Conclusions regarding how your injuries affect your ability to do your job; and,
- Other relevant details.
What to do During Your IME
If counsel represents you, your attorney will counsel you on what to expect, how to prepare, and other details regarding the IME. If you are unrepresented, a few tips may be helpful.
DO consult with an attorney before the IME: If you have not already, reach out to a lawyer immediately after receiving the request for an exam. Unless you have a legal background, you could put your rights at risk by revealing too much or making statements that harm your interests. Always keep in mind that – no matter how an insurer describes the IME and reasons the company wants one – the physician is not on your side. You need an attorney who will put your interests first and guide you through the exam.
DO be honest with the doctor – on health-related issues: You should be open and forthcoming about your injuries, level of pain, how they physically limit you, and the impact on your daily life. If you have a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by the accident, make sure to mention how it has worsened.
DON’T discuss any unnecessary details regarding your accident: The job of the physician is to assess your physical condition and nature of your injuries – NOT to determine fault. Refrain from disclosing your version of how the crash happened, who caused it, and whether your own actions contributed to the collision.
Retain a Maryland Car Accident Lawyer to Advocate on Your Behalf
The independent medical exam is just one aspect of an insurance claim that can be complicated when you are trying to recover the compensation you deserve as the victim of an auto collision. There are many other pitfalls that can affect your rights, and potentially reduce your monetary damages. To learn more about our legal services in motor vehicle accident claims, please contact the Baltimore office of Attorney Bob Katz. Once we review your particular circumstances, we can provide more information on what you expect with the IME and many other aspects of a car crash case.