If you were injured on the job in Washington State, you have a right to go to your own trusted doctor to receive medical treatment. However, in certain circumstances, your claim manager may also request that you undergo an independent medical evaluation (IME). The general purpose of an IME is to get an expert opinion on your medical status from a physician who has no previous relationship with you.
While that may not sound objectionable, in many cases IMEs are requested as a tactic by the Department of Labor & Industries or Self-Insured Employer. The insurer may be looking for a way to deny your claim. If you are being asked to submit to an independent medical evaluation, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced Seattle workers’ compensation attorney. Your attorney will be able to defend your legal rights and financial interests.
Washington Law on Independent Medical Evaluations
Washington state law (RCW 51.32.110) governs your rights and responsibilities regarding independent medical evaluations. Under the law, an IME can be requested by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries or by your self-insured employer. During this evaluation, a qualified medical professional will look for answers to several different questions related to your claim and your medical condition. Some typical examples include:
- Have you reached maximum medical improvement?
- Will any additional medical treatment be required?
- Are you likely to have any permanent impairments?
- Are you exaggerating your injury?
- Is your medical condition related to a pre-existing injury or another non-work accident?
‘Independent’ is a Misnomer: The Defense Medical Evaluation
As noted by the Washington State Dept of Labor & Industries (L&I), IMEs are covered under the state’s workers’ compensation program. This means that you will not be paying for the exam. Of course, it is good that the money to pay the doctors is not coming out your own pocket. However, there is also a downside to this. The defense is both requesting the medical examination, and they are paying the doctors. Unfortunately, this means that the so-called independent medical examinations are not always fair. Injured workers should think of an IME as a ‘defense’ medical examination. If you are being asked to undergo this type of evaluation, you need to be vigilant.
Protect Your Rights: Five Tips for Your Independent Medical Evaluation (IME)
- Bring a Witness
As a general rule, you should not go to an independent medical evaluation on your own. It is recommended that you bring a qualified witness along with you to ensure that you are being treated fairly throughout the process. In Washington, you can bring your lawyer with you to your IME.
- Know that You Will Be Observed
From the moment you drive into the parking lot, you can expect to be observed by medical professionals. Any observations that the doctor makes can be included in the official report. In some cases, medical professionals will write about what a patient did in the waiting room or the parking lot. Please remember that you are under observation.
- Refrain from Unnecessary Speculation
You can be sure that the doctor will ask you many questions, likely even invasive ones. To the best of your ability, you should provide honest answers to all relevant questions. However, it is not your duty to speculate. As a general rule, you should avoid speculation, and you should avoid offering up unnecessary information. You are not required to answer irrelevant questions.
- Do Not Underplay Your Condition
You should not exaggerate your pain or your injuries. At the same time, you should not downplay your condition. The independent examiner needs full information about your condition so that they can make a fair evaluation.
- Be Ready to Fight Back Against an Unfair Report
Unfortunately, some IME reports come back with unfair conclusions. If this has happened in your case, you should be ready to take action to fight back. Your claim should not be rejected simply because an independent examiner misdiagnosed your condition. In this circumstance, you should consult with a Seattle workers’ compensation attorney immediately.
Contact Our Seattle Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Today
At The Walthew Law Firm, our top-rated workers’ compensation attorneys in Seattle have helped many injured workers obtain the full benefits that they deserve. We can help you through all aspects of the claims process, including the independent medical evaluation (IME).
To get help with your Washington workers’ compensation claim, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm today for a free legal consultation. From our offices in Seattle and Everett, we serve communities throughout the state of Washington, including King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County.