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Is the Independent Medical Exam Really Independent?

If you intend to file a workers’ compensation claim in Arkansas, one of the first things you need to do is see a doctor. Your employer and their workers’ comp insurer have the right to choose your treating physician. If you seek treatment on your own without consulting with your employer or insurer, they may not be required to pay. That being said, they may allow you to see your own doctor if you request it. However, the insurance company may also require you to see an independent medical examiner. You should also consult one of our experienced workers comp attorneys.

This is a way to obtain additional information on your injury or illness and it is not aimed at supporting your claim for benefits. There are several reasons why such an examination would be requested. The insurance company may schedule one if:

  • There’s disagreement with your treating physician’s opinion
  • Your claim is getting too costly or it’s moving too slowly, and the insurer wants to close the case
  • There’s a need for evidence to deny your claim, limit your benefits or resolve a dispute surrounding your claim
  • Your treating physician determines you are permanently disabled

How Independent Medical Examiners Operate

The examiner is likely to be a semiretired physician who no longer treats patients. They will not be treating you in any way. Instead, they will review your records and examine you to determine:

  • Whether your account of how the incident occurs matches the available medical evidence
  • Whether you were properly diagnosed. If not, they may make another diagnosis or recommend additional testing.
  • The extent to which your injuries cause your pain or disability or affect your ability to engage in regular activity
  • The extent to which you are expected to recover and what your future medical needs are likely to be

You may assume that since the word “independent” is in the name, this doctor will have no biases at all. However, you need to remember that they will be chosen by the insurance company or your employer – both of whom would prefer to deny your claim. This is something that workers throughout the country have to battle.

Often, the examiner will conclude that the worker’s condition was not actually work-related or that they are ready to return to work without restrictions. It is widely believed that these exams are really not that independent. Workers’ comp insurers tend to use the same doctors all the time and there’s a view that they often give opinions that favor the employer.

Since many independent medical examiners no longer see patients as a matter of course, they earn their living from carrying out these examinations. They may see so many patients in a day that they may not have time to examine the patient thoroughly or make thorough notes about the exam. Sometimes, doctors simply submit a checklist to another entity that drafts a report and then sends it to the physician for their signature.

Is This Examination Mandatory?

You may be wondering if you have to submit yourself to such an examination if it appears it’s likely to go against you. The answer is yes. If you refuse, you may not be able to recover workers’ comp benefits. When you receive the request, you must share it with your Rogers workers’ comp lawyer. Your attorney will want to help you to prepare for the appointment and they will want to ensure that your rights are not in any way violated.

What Happens During the Visit

Despite what you have read about this examination, you should still be polite and accommodating. Even if you suspect the doctor won’t give you a fair evaluation, be honest when you respond to questions. If you lie about your symptoms or how your recovery is progressing, you could jeopardize your right to benefits. If the doctor asks a question to which you don’t know the answer, simply state that you don’t know. Don’t make assumptions or volunteer information that was not requested. Your lawyer will likely advise you against discussing attorney-client communication and certain other topics.

Contact the Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield P.A.

If you have questions about the workers’ comp process or you believe you’re being treated unfairly, you need to seek legal advice. Ideally, you should contact an attorney before you file your claim if you’re seriously injured. However, if you underwent an independent medical examination before talking to a lawyer and you’re dissatisfied with the outcome, you should contact our office. Our Rogers workers’ compensation attorneys will look into the matter and advise you accordingly. Schedule a consultation today and increase the likelihood that you be fairly compensated for your work-related injury or illness.

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