Most of the time, your work-related injury will heal enough for you to be able to return to your job after a few days, weeks, or months. In some cases, however, things don't happen as expected. The workers' comp carrier has expectations that your injury will heal within certain periods of time, based on past history of conditions that are similar to your own. When that time is exceeded, the insurance company may ask that you undergo an independent medical exam (IME). The results of this exam can greatly influence your future, so read on to learn more about the IME.
How to Handle the IME: This is no regular doctor's appointment; you must understand that this doctor is hired by the workers' comp insurance carrier for the sole purpose of determining your continued ability to get benefits. This doctor will provide no treatment or prescriptions. While you won't need to pay this doctor, you should take care and be prepared for this exam, since you could lose your benefits if you are not careful. Be sure to:
- Understand that there is no normal patient and physician confidentiality during the IME, so be very careful with what you say while being examined.
- Answer all questions clearly, and stay on point. Do not give any information except exactly what is being asked of you.
- You can expect the doctor to focus exclusively on the affected body part that is causing you to be unable to return to work. The doctor will manipulate (move and bend) your arm, for example, to test your level of discomfort and range of motion. Don't hesitate to let the doctor know how much discomfort these manipulations cause, if appropriate.
- Let the doctor know the effect of the injury on your home life as well as on your work life, since that could be a consideration if your injury turns out to be permanent.
- Come to the appointment armed with your notes and journal entries, and don't be shy about referring to them if you need to answer a question or need to make a point. For example, if you had to have a surgery because of your injury, you may want to make it known that you have not had ample time to heal from that surgery, even if your original injury was months ago.
- Rest assured that a preexisting condition that has been made worse by the work-related injury is covered by workers' comp, so be sure to mention it during the exam, if appropriate.
If you are being asked to return to work before your injury has healed, speak to a workers' comp attorney at a law firm such as the Rizzi Law Group right away.