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What is an Independent Medical Examination?

An independent medical examination, or IME, is an evaluation of a person’s medical condition to assess whether they are eligible for disability benefits or compensation. The purpose of an IME is to have a non-biased review of someone’s medical condition to verify any physical, emotional, or mental injuries.

Why do people get Independent Medical Examinations?

People typically get an IME because they have been injured in some way, like in an auto accident, or have filed a workers’ compensation claim because of a work-related injury or illness.

Who requests an Independent Medical Examination?

An IME is requested by an insurance company who often chooses the doctor to perform the examination and pays them for this service.

Who performs an Independent Medical Examination?

An IME is performed by a doctor who has not previously been involved in a person’s care. The evaluation is a one-time appointment, and the doctor performing the IME will not prescribe medications, recommend treatment, or see the patient for any future follow-up care.

An Independent Medical Exam doctor will be evaluating:

  • Your general appearance
  • Your medical records and history
  • The extent of your injuries
  • That the injuries are as serious as claimed
  • That the injury is not from to a different cause
  • Any signs of obvious deception

After an Independent Medical Examination, the examining doctor writes a report with their conclusions and opinions in response to any disputed issues or questions raised by an insurance company. The person examined or their lawyer will receive a copy of this report.

How an Independent Medical Examination impacts your claim

The results of an IME can have a large impact on your case. Workers’ comp judges and hearing officers often see IME doctors as experts and give significant weight to their reports. Judges also tend to view IME doctors as more objective than treating physicians—even if that’s not the case.

There are certain situations where you may be able to challenge an IME report. For example, if the doctor’s opinion is based on incorrect information about your medical history or there is some other factual mistake, but these errors must be pointed out right away.

Does an Independent Medical Exam doctor have the same obligations as a regular doctor?

In a standard doctor–patient relationship, a physician is legally obligated to act in the best interests of his or her patients. Some argue that because the independent medical evaluator is hired by a third party, these doctors have no legal duty of care to the examinees.

Because insurance companies hire IME doctors directly there is some concern that their medical reports may purposely contradict an injured person’s insurance claim.