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Attending an Independent Medical Examination (IME)

So you have been injured and decided to make a claim for personal injuries. It is important to realise that at some point you will be required to undertake what is known as an IME or ‘Independent Medical Examination’ by the insurers of the responsible party (usually Workcover Queensland if you had a workplace accident, or a CTP insurer if you had a car accident).

The purpose of an IME is to independently verify the extent of your symptoms and whether any limitations from your injuries are likely to be permanent. Your usual doctor or previous surgeon cannot be the examiner – it must be independent.

5 Tips for victims attending an Independent Medical Examination (IME)

1. Be Honest. Do not exaggerate your condition. If something doesn’t hurt, don’t claim that it does. You can rest assured that the examining doctor will test you to see if you are making any claims that are patently unsustainable. Usually this is done by the Doctor asking you about your symptoms – and asking you about some aspect that they know should not cause you any or little pain.

Remember that the purpose of the medical examination is to determine whether or not:

  • the extent of your injuries is consistent with your claim of how it occurred; and
  • the injuries are as serious as what you claim.

So, simply put – you are being tested at the Doctor’s examination and you may be asked to do something by the Doctor for an entirely different purpose than what is first apparent.

One example is if you have a neck injury – and the Doctor is talking to you but moving around the room at the same time. The purpose in moving may well be to see if you turn your neck to follow them as they move.

He might actually ask you to do something that has nothing to do with your injury. For example – the doctor may ask you to bend your arm and be watching you to see if you turn your head without any pain to observe what the doctor is doing.

If you claim that you cannot lift anything, or anything above a certain weight, or that you have a serious back injury, the doctor may simply ask you to move a chair or bring it to his desk to see how you cope with this task – whether or not you pick it up with both arms, or at all.

So just because the doctor asks you to do something and you genuinely cannot do so as a consequence of your injury, then simply but politely decline and explain to the doctor why you have declined to do so.

Another example may be if the doctor asks you to remove part of your attire e.g. your shoes, or top etc – you can assume that the doctor is watching to see how you cope with doing so. If you can do so, then do so as you normally would- taking into account the effect of your injuries. Under no circumstances should you lie or exaggerate your condition as this will also become obvious to the doctor who is examining – and observing you.

Simply tell the doctor the truth – if the doctor asks you to do something and it genuinely hurts – then say so. However, if it does not hurt – say so. This will increase your credibility as certain actions or movements of your body may cause pain due to your injury and others may not. If your doctor asks you to do something knowing that there should be no pain, and there is no such pain – but you claim there is – then the doctor knows you are lying and will report this in his findings.

2. Describe the areas and degree of pain exactly as it is, not as the doctor suggests it should be and not as you think it should be after researching your symptoms on Google. However, if the doctor does something that causes you pain, ensure you let them know because if you don’t, the doctor will assume that your silence is acknowledgement that there is no pain.

3. Assume that you are being watched the entire time. Depending on the size of your claim you can safely assume that the Insurers have engaged private investigators to monitor you through video surveillance. The private investigators often use groovy spy technology such as small cameras in the shape of a pen held in their front shirt pocket, or a hidden camera lens in their briefcase or even a newspaper they are holding.

Surveillance can occur at any point in time and can often occur around your scheduled IME appointment times. You should assume that you are being watched (and filmed) from the moment you depart your house, arrive to the appointment, to the moment you leave.

The Doctor conducting the Independent Medical Examination may also observe you entering the building and note in their report that you did not appear to be in any pain then and walked normally but complained of pain when you were in his presence. This leaves you exposed to the claim of exaggeration.

4. Don’t talk about your injury claim – assume that ‘walls have ears’. There is every chance a private investigator will be watching you as soon as you leave your home and follow you to your appointment. Do not discuss your claim or your injuries with anyone in the waiting rooms – or even in the lift when you arrive or leave, in case you are overheard by a private investigator who then attends court and misrepresents what you said or what you meant to say. Spy cameras exist in the form of pens, keychains, spectacles and other clever devices which can go easily undetected. Be aware that you may be recorded in public places without your knowledge.

It is also important to not discuss your injuries on social media either as the insurance company and their lawyers will most likely keep an eye out in case they can use any of your comments or photos against you.

5. Understand and expect that the doctor may have a bias against injured claimants. It is a fact that insurers tend to send injury victims to doctors or provide you with a panel of doctors within which to choose from, who are generally recognised within the legal system has being ‘pro defendant’, or moderate – but never ‘pro plaintiff’.

Irrespective of this, you need to realise that the judges are also aware of which doctors are pro insurer, moderate or ‘pro plaintiff’ – as they deal with them every second day and see hundreds of medico legal reports. Bias often shows through in the writing of these reports – so it is important if you are seeing a pro insurer doctor for an ‘independent’ medical examination that you do not overcompensate by exaggerating your symptoms – because this too will show through in the doctor’s report. Remember – it takes just one lie to throw your entire claim into jeopardy.

Seek Legal Advice

If you have been asked to attend an IME but have not yet sought legal advice, we recommend you do so urgently.

If you are receiving weekly Workcover benefits, being sent to an IME is a typical sign that your claim is coming to an end and your benefits may be stopped depending on the outcome of the report.

If you are a victim of a car accident or slip and fall, being sent to an IME is a sign that the CTP insurer takes your claim seriously, but does not want to pay your maximum entitlements.

If you have legal advice, your solicitors are able to advise you of the specific and potential impacts any IME reports have on your claim and send you to alternative doctors for your own IME reports that are almost always more favourable.

Contact Roche Legal for a free consultation.

This commentary is published by Roche Legal for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as specific advice. The content relates to Queensland law only and is subject to change over time. You should seek legal advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any decision.

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