You just suffered a painful injury at work in Ohio. After filing for your workers’ compensation benefits, you sigh as you think about what comes next after this workplace injury. Your employer will insist that you undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME) with a workers’ compensation doctor. This is due to the staggering annual payout by employers and Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for workers’ comp claims. Because they already shell out so much money, they want to minimize it as much as possible by requiring these IMEs. When employees sustain injuries, employers desperately want to prove how serious or mild the injury was. In this way, they hope to avoid a larger payout.
Because these processes are so complex, you need a qualified legal professional at your side. Cincinnati attorney Mark L. Newman takes care of all sorts of Ohio workers’ compensation cases. He’s here to help yours, too. He has offered experience, advice, and advocacy since 1989, so you know you’re getting the best of the best. In this post, he will inform you of what NOT to say to a workers’ comp doctor during an IME.
What is an IME for Workers’ Comp?
Independent medical exams are standard practice in workers’ compensation cases involving injuries. These exams are conducted by qualified physicians after the employer of the injured worker requests the exam. The IME intends to determine whether your injury happened while performing your work duties, whether you need certain medical treatments, if or when you should return to work, and whether your injury will result in permanent disability. In some cases, injured employees must go to more than one IME. Essentially, the IME exists as a way for your employer or the Ohio BWC to assess the soundness of your claim, and then to respond to the claim and hopefully challenge it.
What Kinds of Questions Will I Be Asked in a Workers’ Comp IME?
Most IME doctors ask very specific questions in order to extract as much information from you as possible. For this reason, it is important to understand the full range of possibilities for these questions. The more prepared you are to answer, the better off you will be. Below, we list common questions that doctors ask during an IME for workers’ compensation cases.
- What symptoms did you take note of before, during, and after your workplace accident?
- Do you have pre-existing conditions?
- Were these conditions present prior to your workplace accident?
- Did you have symptoms from these conditions at the time of your accident?
- Were any of your symptoms aggravated or made worse by the accident?
- Did you sustain any restrictions on your ability to work because of your injuries?
- Did your accident or injuries result in permanent disability?
- How has the injury affected your daily life? Can you perform normal daily activities?
How to Prepare for Your IME?
It is extremely important to take your IME seriously, as it can greatly affect the outcome of your case. Below, we list the ways in which we recommend that you prepare for an IME.
- Dress appropriately. By this, we mean that it is not a good idea to wear athletic clothing to an examination in which you will claim to be injured.
- Arrive early. We recommend showing up at least 30 minutes early in order to complete any necessary paperwork.
- Familiarize yourself with your medical history. The doctor will have access to your records, but you should know your history at least as well as they do.
- Be honest. Honesty goes a long way with doctors, especially during an IME. Don’t exaggerate your pain or injuries, and don’t be afraid to tell them something doesn’t hurt at all. Also, make sure that the story you tell about your injury exactly matches what you wrote for your claim. Inconsistencies will only work against your case.
- Be consistent. It is highly possible that, before you even walk into the building, someone is observing you. For this reason, do not limp or exhibit different emotions while in the examination room and then change those behaviors outside of it. This is inconsistent and therefore dishonest behavior, and it could end up harming your case.
- Be courteous. Keep in mind that the exam might be long. This is simply because the doctor wants to be thorough. Remain calm and polite throughout the exam, and do not react to the length of the exam.
- Speak with an attorney. Your Ohio workers’ compensation attorney will recommend all of the above, and likely much more. This list is a good starting point, but speaking with an attorney prior to your exam will prepare you even more for the exam ahead of time.
Why Do IME Doctors Side With the Employer?
Doctors have a significant amount of influence in workers’ compensation cases. Your IME has the potential to make or break your case. This is especially true when your treating physician and your employer’s appointed doctor don’t come to the same conclusions. You trust your personal physician, but why does the company-appointed doctor disagree with them?
It boils down to a simple conflict of interest. The company-approved doctor intends to serve the company’s interests over yours, within reason. Companies order these IMEs if they want to dispute a claim lower than the compensation amount or deny it altogether. In some cases, these doctors are financially motivated, so they act on behalf of the employer during their evaluation. Your own personal physician, however, acts on behalf of you, the patient.
What to Look Out For in a Workers’ Comp Physician?
As we mentioned before, in the state of Ohio, injured workers always have the right to choose their own workers’ comp physician. Take advantage of this opportunity and do your research. Choosing a highly-qualified workers’ compensation doctor can help your case immensely. Below, we list what aspects to look for in a physician for your case.
- Experience and skill
- Familiarity and experience with your type of injury
- Understanding of workers’ comp claims, plus the readiness to advocate for you
- Ability to accept Ohio’s workers’ comp medical fees
- Appointment availability
- Close proximity to your home
What Not to Say to Workers’ Comp Doctor
Certain comments or actions, as we mentioned before, are not a good idea to exhibit in front of your workers’ comp doctor. Below, we list the three most important things to remember when speaking with a workers’ comp doctor during your IME.
- Never say anything that exaggerates your symptoms. Be honest about what you do feel, but don’t make it out to be more than it is. This could discredit everything else you’ve said and lead to distrust on the part of the doctor. Exaggeration does not lead to higher payouts, but rather complications with your case.
- Do not speak ill of your employer. While it may be true that you are unhappy with your employer after your injury, do not make this known to the doctor. Having negative feelings is perfectly fine and natural, but try to keep a positive attitude during your exam. The goal is to have the doctor on your side in the end, as this will lessen any doubts the doctor may have about your case.
- Always be honest. Describe all relevant previous injuries and don’t leave out details about your accident. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to workers’ comp cases.
Contact an Experienced Cincinnati Workers’ Compensation Attorney
For over 30 years, Mark L. Newman has advocated for injured employees all across the state of Ohio. He prides himself on giving each and every client the same dedicated care and attention, regardless of how simple or complex their case may be. As a representative of thousands of clients in the past, his experience and effectiveness are what bolster his reputation among his peers. For legal advocacy from someone experienced in Ohio workers’ compensation law, you need Mark L. Newman. To schedule a consultation, call 513-533-2009 today.