You might be very happy when an insurance company asks you to undergo an IME. An IME (so-called “Independent” Medical Exam) means that, a live doctor will look at you, examine you and talk to you, before writing a report to the company which usually says you are not disabled.
However, you should know that on the day you are to present yourself for the examination, Big Brother (your insurance company), will likely be watching you on camera, waiting for you to make a false move they can use to try to scuttle your claim.
How do we know that IME day is likely to bring out the video camera? Because video surveillance of claimants is expensive and insurance companies don’t want to waste money sending a surveillance unit out when they are uncertain about whether you are home and, if you are, whether you emerge or do anything they can photograph during the time they are there.
But, when an IME is scheduled, the insurer knows that you will have to come out of the house to go to their doctor, so if they have a unit at your home, they know they are going to get some video of you in action. And, they hope their camera will catch you doing something they can use to argue that you are fit to work so they can stop paying benefits.
It doesn’t take much for an insurer to claim you can do some kind of work. For example, if they see you lifting anything, they will claim that you are fit to work on a loading dock.
Most courts are smart enough to realize that if a person is caught on film for a minute, doing something he or she was not ordinarily able to do, it doesn’t mean that person can do the task over and over for an hour, a day or a week. This is especially so if the person has presented solid medical evidence of an illness or injury which clearly would prevent him or her from doing so.
Given that an IME may be anything but “independent”, a client should be prepared to meet whatever obstacles are put in the way on examination day. The claimant should assume that the examining doctor, hired by the insurer, is not out to do the claimant any favors. The doctor is out to shoot down the claim if at all possible. And to some doctors “possible” stretches all the way to the stratosphere.
But, it is also true that sometimes a picture can appear to be compelling evidence even it does not truly reflect the reality of an impairment. The point is: Be aware that you are fair game for surveillance, especially when the carrier knows where you will be and when you will be there.
IMEs present the insurer with an ideal opportunity to spy on you and you can assume that they won’t pass up the opportunity.
What claimants can do to level the examination playing field is:
* Bring a witness to the exam and have the witness take notes of the entire procedure.
* Bring a good watch and write an exact time line of the visit, from the time you arrive at the examination site to the time you leave.
* The notes should contain the exact length of time each phase takes, i.e., waiting time, interview time, examination time, discussion, exit time.
* Write out a complete description of the IME as soon after it concludes as possible, when your memory is still fresh.
* Make a note of the name and occupation (medical doctor, physician’s assistant, registered nurse, nurse’s aide, technician) of each person who conducts each part of the examination visit (welcome, history, interview and review of your medical records, testing, and actual examination, detailing what is actually done by the examiner).
Your witness’s and your notes can be used by your attorney to keep the examining doctor’s testimony accurate, if there is a trial. If you don’t keep accurate and timely notes, much of the detail of the visit and the examination will be lost to memory. That situation would leave the courtroom playing field to the IME doctor and you have to know that that person is not inclined to do you any favors.