Independent medical exams (also known as IME’s) are a tool often used by insurance companies when an injured plaintiff is claiming permanent injuries and damages. The term ‘independent’ medical exam is actually a misnomer. A more accurate term would be a ‘defense’ medical exam.
If you sustained injuries and damages as a result of someone else’s negligence in a Louisville personal injury case, it is essential that you have legal representation in your corner from the onset.
Experienced Louisville personal injury attorneys can prepare you for an independent medical examination and can counsel you on what you should say – and what you should not say – during the examination.
How Independent Medical Examinations Work
Typically, when a plaintiff sustains permanent injuries in a Louisville personal injury case, the plaintiff’s attorney will send the injured plaintiff to an independent, non-treating healthcare provider for a permanency evaluation.
The permanency evaluation doctor generally examines the injured plaintiff and writes a report, which indicates that the injured plaintiff sustained permanent injuries.
Sometimes, the nature and extent of the permanent injury is expressed in terms of a percentage. For example, a permanency evaluation doctor may find that an injured plaintiff sustained a 25% whole person impairment to the right shoulder as a result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
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Following the permanency evaluation, the defense attorney will send the injured plaintiff to a doctor of his choosing.
That doctor will undertake an independent medical examination of the injured plaintiff, but that doctor’s report will be much more favorable to the defense and much less favorable to the injured plaintiff. In most cases, the IME doctor will find little-to-no permanent impairment.
Rather, the IME doctor will try to explain away any permanent impairment by pointing to degenerative changes in imaging reports (such as x-rays and/or MRI’s) or pre-existing medical conditions.
By sending the injured plaintiff for an independent medical exam, the insurance company hopes to minimize its exposure and lessen the amount of the injured plaintiff’s damages.
Each side will typically designate its independent doctor as an expert who may be called upon to testify at trial. The Kentucky Rules of Evidence includes rules pertaining to expert witnesses and expert witness testimony.
Preparing for an Exam
During an independent medical examination, the following general points should be helpful to injured plaintiffs:
- Be very explicit about all complaints of pain and symptoms experienced as a result of injuries sustained in the accident, and be complete about all body parts that were injured in the subject accident.
- Be very explicit about the types of activities, including social, recreational, work, and household activities that are much more difficult or impossible to do after the accident, and that were problem-free before the accident.
- Be very clear and explicit about activities that alleviate or lessen the symptoms and pain as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. Some examples include taking over-the-counter medication or stretching.
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Independent medical exams are not designed to be helpful to injured plaintiffs. Rather, they are defense-oriented.
An experienced Louisville personal injury lawyer will be able to prepare you for an independent medical examination (and how to conduct yourself during the examination), with the goal of maximizing the value of your monetary compensation and damages.
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