How to prepare for an independent medical exam in Arizona
According to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. Under Arizona law, workers are entitled to fair and equal workers’ compensation when such injuries occur.
However, you first may need to go through an independent medical exam (IME) first.
The outcome of this process will determine how much compensation you will get.
What are IMEs?
Typically, when you get injured on the job, you can seek medical assistance from any doctor, unless your employer is self insured. This physician examines the extent of your injuries and recommends treatment and medication. Under workers’ compensation, your employer’s insurance is supposed to cover these medical costs. However, the insurer or employer may disagree with the medical report.
According to the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA):
“The insurance carrier has the right to have an injured worker periodically examined by the doctor of its choice. The carrier may use the doctor’s opinion to change the status on a claim.
If the injured worker feels that he or she is being unfairly requested to attend this examination, a Motion for Protective Order may be filed with the ICA and an administrative law judge will decide whether the injured worker must attend the exam.
The carrier is required to pay travel expenses (mileage and living expenses) for these types of appointments.”
How to prepare for your IME
Independent medical exams can be stressful. Fortunately, these exams are standard, and you can prepare in advance. Here are some of the things you should do before the exam.
1. Find out the specifics areas in dispute
An IME is only requested when there is a dispute. Find out which specific areas of your case are in contention. Typical areas of disagreement include the method of treatment and the extent of the injury. The insurance adjuster usually has to write a letter to the examiner framing the issues. Request to read this letter and make any corrections before the actual exam.
2. Know your medical history
Keep in mind that the insurer is hoping for a reduced medical cost. The examiner will narrow in on all medical history that may be relevant to the case. Review all treatments or surgeries you have undergone since the injury in question.
It’s okay to bring some notes about anything you might forget. If some previous injuries or illnesses affected the area in question, don’t try to hide it. The examiner will have your entire medical history before them anyway. Where injuries overlap, clearly articulate how that previous injury is different from the current one.
3. Get your story straight
An IME is not exclusively a medical affair; it’s also an investigation. To get a sense of things, the examiner will ask to review the events’ sequence leading to the accident. This line of questioning is to determine if the injuries were job-related.
Remember that the workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system. Whatever you tell the examiner should be consistent with the accident report or your doctor’s report. Any inconsistencies might be regarded as dishonesty. Relax and keep the answers brief and factual.
4. Dress appropriately, be polite and be honest
Your dress code may not seem important, but the wrong wardrobe choice can work against you. For example, let’s say the accident caused you to sprain your ankle. Showing up for a medical exam wearing high heels isn’t the wisest choice.
Be polite and watch how you conduct yourself during the interview. Show up on time; the earlier, the better. Theatrics will not help your cause. Don’t try to change your walking style or limp unnecessarily.
What to expect during an IME
You will be notified when you are expected to attend the IME. In most cases, it’s just you and the examiner. The most important thing you should know is that these procedures are rarely “independent.” The insurer or your employer is usually trying to find fault with your claim. A typical IME takes about 30 minutes.
The examiner will ask questions about the incident and your health, and confirm your answers with what’s in your medical records. IME doctors generally look at the following;
- General appearance. Know that you are under scrutiny from the parking lot, in the waiting room and during the actual medical exam. They will be looking at how you walk, sit and stand to find clues about the injury.
- Manifestation of pain. The doctor can’t know how you feel, but they can guess by how you behave. It is common for them to ask for pain ratings while holding the injured body part. Don’t exaggerate as this will only work against you.
- Hints of deception. IME doctors are highly trained professionals, so don’t underestimate them. The more honest you are, the better. If you try to exaggerate your limping or pain, they will pick up on that. They will also try to catch in a lie during the interview.
Within about 2 weeks, the IME doctor will write a report. You are entitled to a copy of this IME report. If you notice any mistakes, you can bring this to the attention of your attorney.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
When to consult an Arizona work injury lawyer for advice
Hopefully, you are now better prepared for an independent medical exam in Arizona. Workers’ compensation laws require all employers to secure compensation insurance for their workers.
You should never hesitate to file a claim, even if you feel partly responsible for the accident that led to your injury. All that is required is proof that you were injured on the job. Schedule a free consultation with an Arizona work injury lawyer today and get the help you need.