When you suffer a work-related injury and seek workers’ compensation in Iowa, your employer may choose where to receive care for your injury. If there is a disagreement with the treating physician’s evaluation of your condition, however, an independent medical exam (IME) can help to resolve it. An IME can be requested by an insurance company, but an employer, the state, or even the injured employee can make this request.
Who can decide an IME is necessary?
If your employer requests an IME, and you refuse to participate, then Iowa law provides that you forfeit your right to compensation for as long as you refuse. This is a recent amendment to Iowa law that takes effect July 1, 2017; previously, compensation was merely suspended during an employee’s refusal of an employer-requested exam. Any exam requested by your employer is at your employer’s expense, including transportation to and from the exam as well as pay for any time you need to take off work to participate.
If you request the IME, then you will have to cover the cost of the additional exam up front, but you may be entitled to reimbursement from your employer. The recent changes to the law, however, provide that your employer will be required to reimburse you only if your injury is found to be compensable under Iowa workers’ compensation law.
How can an independent medical exam affect my award?
The purpose of an IME is to resolve questions about your medical condition, such as appropriate treatment and whether and to what extent you are permanently impaired. Anything the doctor observes during the exam can be used as evidence, and the doctor’s opinions can be considered expert testimony in your case. Because the exam weighs heavily in determining appropriate treatment and your degree of disability, it can have a tremendous effect on your benefit award.
Why should I talk to an attorney before my IME?
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand what to expect at an independent medical exam. Despite the fact that it’s called “independent,” many IME doctors are often paid by an insurer and get frequent referrals from that insurer. This sets up a different relationship than a traditional doctor-patient relationship; the doctor is not there to help you feel better (in fact, this doctor should not prescribe any treatment). Rather, the doctor’s job is to provide an assessment of your condition for the purpose of litigation. An attorney can give you tips about how to interact with this doctor so you don’t inadvertently damage your chances of receiving full and fair compensation.
An Iowa workers’ compensation attorney can also help to ensure that an IME doctor has all of the relevant information and documentation that they need to conduct a well-informed evaluation. Because this is a doctor you will see once, it can be challenging to present a complete picture of your condition. Your attorney can help you fill in any gaps in the physician’s understanding of your case so they can develop a full appreciation of the extent of your injury.
Finally, when it comes time to choose a doctor for your evaluation, it is helpful to have an experienced attorney refer you to a doctor and provide that doctor with information about your case. The doctor that you choose for your independent evaluation can make a huge difference in your case and it is very important to go to a doctor familiar with Iowa Workers’ Compensation law.
If you’ve been asked to undergo an independent medical exam or are thinking of requesting one yourself, contact Platt Law Firm. Nicholas Platt and his staff have helped hundreds of Iowa workers get the medical treatment they need and recover just compensation for work-related injuries. We can help you navigate the system, prepare for medical exams, and ensure that doctors have all the information they need to make a fair assessment of your condition.