Under Illinois law, if you are injured in a work-related accident, you have the right to see a doctor of your own choosing. Your company has to pay for all reasonable and related medical care related to your accident.
Often, your company or its insurance company will send you to an “independent medical examination” (IME). This is a doctor of their choosing who evaluates your medical situation and the medical treatment provided by your doctors. The doctor then writes a report outlining your need for treatment, whether your problems are related to your job or your work-related accident. The IME doctor may also evaluate your ability to work. This doctor will not provide any medical treatment.
So what’s really going on? In my opinion, there are basically two types of Independent Medical Examiners. The first, although hired by an insurance company, is basically an honest doctor who will try to evaluate your medical situation—albeit in the light most favorable to the insurance company. These doctors are rare but do exist. The second is far more common and is totally in the pocket of the insurance company and cares very little about you or your medical problems. These doctors rarely side with the injured worker and will only say helpful things in the most extreme of cases. In reality, no IME is truly independent since the doctor is paid by the insurance company. In some cases doctors can make several thousand dollars from one IME. Of course, these are broad generalizations, but I think they fit accurately.
What to do? My first piece of advice is document everything about the IME. No, I’m not saying record the IME. I do believe that one should write down the time you go into the IME and when you leave the examining room. Also document the exact amount of time the doctor examines you. Write down all the tests that the doctor performs and try to remember the questions that he or she asks. Lastly, when the insurance company sends you for an IME it is definitely time to consider a good lawyer if you have not already hired someone. In my experience, when the insurance company schedules an IME, they are saying to you that they question something about your case. They are wondering if your doctor is telling the truth and they want to verify your medical situation. Even in the best of circumstances, the insurance company unlimitedly does not trust you and your doctor and are using a strategy to deny you some (or all) of your benefits.
Call me if you have any questions regarding the Independent Medical Examination. There are rules and laws concerning the IME that many attorneys do not know or understand. I can help you through this difficult time. I help injured workers in the Chicago area and in all counties in Illinois including Cook County, Lake County, Will County, DuPage County and Kane County.
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