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Understanding Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)

Law Office of Joshua S. Reed July 27, 2023

When you file a personal injury claim, the negligent party’s liability insurance company will place a monetary value on that claim. Insurance companies never want to pay out more in a settlement than necessary, so they will do whatever they can to reduce that value. 

One of the ways they may attempt to do so is by requesting that you submit to an independent medical examination (IME). They have the right to do so, so you should understand the role of an IME and how they work. 

At the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed, many of the injury victims our team represents are asked to submit to IMEs. When they are, we prepare them for what to expect because we believe our clients should go through the claims process and if necessary, litigation, with their eyes wide open. 

If you have been injured in Knoxville or Farragut, Tennessee, or in Clinton, Blount, Anderson, Maryville, Union, or Oak Ridge counties, let our personal injury attorneys prepare you for what is to come.  

What Is an Independent Medical Examination (IME)?

An independent medical exam (IME) is a review of a claimant’s medical records, complaints, and a physical examination conducted by a qualified licensed professional who is not the claimant’s treating physician. 

The word “independent” is somewhat misleading. Because the examiner is hired by the insurance company, their opinions tend to favor the insurer rather than the claimant. The examiner’s role is less about substantiating the severity of your injuries and more about finding ways to assert they are less serious than they are. 

You should also know that your relationship with the independent medical examiner is not the usual doctor-patient relationship. Because the insurance company doctor is not your treating physician, what they learn is shared with the company without the protection of privacy and privilege. 

The insurance company-retained provider will deliver a written report to the insurer who will, in turn, use its contents to lower the value of your personal injury claim. Moreover, the examiner’s report and testimony will be used against you if your case goes to trial. 

Who Needs an IME?

Who needs an IME and why varies among personal injury claims. In general, however, insurance companies usually employ them to invalidate an injury victim’s claims of serious, debilitating, and permanent injury. If the insurer is skeptical of or disagrees with your doctor’s diagnosis, treatment, and opinion, they will retain an independent medical examiner.

For example, if you had no prior issues with your spine but claim the subject injury will require surgery and rehabilitation now and in the future, and that it will render you unable to maintain employment, the value of your claim will be significant. If the policy limits of the insurance policy in play are high, the insurance company will try using the IME as a tactic to lower the value. 

The professional the company hires will look for evidence of prior injuries and pre-existing conditions, flaws in the diagnosis and treatment of the current injury, and evidence that contradicts your claims of disability. If the insurer suspects its doctor can deliver, it will require you to undergo an IME. 

What Happens During an IME?

Prior to seeing the insurance company provider, the doctor will review your medical records. The records will not be just those documenting treatment of the injuries you sustained in the accident for which you have filed a claim. The insurance company will also request and provide copies of your medical records from prior to the accident to search for any potential links to a prior injury or pre-existing condition. 

The medical reviewer will also read the settlement demand you and your attorney have submitted to the insurance company. The demand essentially lays out your case, documents the value of your injuries and damages, and states how much you believe your claim is worth. 

Finally, the medical professional will meet with you personally to ask you questions and conduct a physical examination. They write a report of their findings and assert their own opinions regarding the cause and extent of your injuries. 

Why Should I Work With an Attorney?

Do you want to know what to do when your insurance company requests an IME? If you are not already represented by a personal injury attorney, hire one. Don’t just hire any attorney. Hire one who has represented clients with similar personal injury claims and injuries, and one who understands complex diagnoses and how pre-existing conditions may affect them. 

Your personal injury attorney will protect your interests. They will prepare you for the IME and use your medical records, past and present, to project any issues the examiner is likely to ask you about and examine you for. 

Above all, your attorney will have access to medical experts you can use to confront the claims in the IME report. The opinion of an independent medical examiner carries weight with the judge and jury. You will need to counter that opinion with those favorable to your claim. 

Logic and consistency are hallmarks of IME reports. Your attorney will work diligently to uncover discrepancies and lapses in logic in the drawing of conclusions that could harm your claim.

You Deserve Skilled Representation

Insurance companies use independent medical examinations as tools to devalue personal injury claims every single day. They are skilled at it. You deserve to be represented by an attorney who can match that skill. You deserve the knowledgeable and experienced representation of our personal injury team. 

If the insurance company you have filed a personal injury claim with has requested that you undergo an IME in Knoxville, Farragut, or the surrounding areas in Tennessee, call the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed now.