What You Should and Shouldn’t Say to Your Workers’ Comp Doctor
If you have suffered an injury on the job, you may think that your next step is to simply fill out the proper paperwork to receive workers’ compensation. However, it’s not always that easy. Before you can receive compensation for your injuries, your companies’ insurance company may ask you to go through an independent medical exam (IME) first.
In 2018 and 2019, nearly 3 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported. With these numbers in mind, it’s no surprise that insurers will do whatever they can to reduce the amount of money they have to pay out to injured workers. Even if you already sought treatment for your injuries, insurers can ask you for an IME in an effort to gain further details and information about your injury.
Essentially, an IME is a medical examination performed by a specific doctor who has experience with workers’ comp cases. Their job is to provide a second opinion separate from that of your personal doctor. The purpose of this is to determine if the initial treatment prescribed by your doctor is fully necessary and to evaluate the full extent of the injury to determine how it affects your ability to work.
Insurers also push for IMEs as a way to determine if the injury is at all related to anything that may have occurred to you outside the workplace. But, again, their purpose here is to pay you as little as possible, which means they will use whatever evidence surfaces against you to minimize the injury and the fault of your employer. This is why it’s crucial that you are mindful of what you do and do not say when undergoing your independent medical exam. One wrong move or statement could negatively impact the amount of compensation you receive.
If you ever find yourself in this situation and feel that you are not being compensated fairly, it may be necessary to seek the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. They have extensive knowledge of the laws involved in these cases and how to deal with insurance companies. By working with a lawyer, your chances of getting the full compensation you deserve are much higher.
Finding the Right Doctor for Your IME
If you are asked to have an IME performed, finding the right doctor is essential. You’ll want to ensure that whomever you choose has experience with workers’ comp cases. However, it is not guaranteed that you will be able to choose your own doctor. Some situations allow the injured worker to use their own personal primary care physician or select one of their choosing, but it just depends on the circumstances. If you can choose the doctor yourself, the following are some key factors to look for when making your decision:
- They have experience with workers’ compensation IMEs and understand their responsibility and what documentation to fill out.
- They accept workers’ compensation insurance.
- They specialize in or have experience treating your specific injury or illness.
- They have open availability and will be able to fit you in within the necessary time frame that is allowed when pursuing workers’ compensation.
- Their office is within a convenient distance to where you live. This is important because you may have to visit them often if multiple treatments or physical therapy is necessary.
What to Expect During Your Independent Medical Exam
When preparing for your IME, it’s understandable that you may feel nervous or worried. You want to make a good impression and say the right things to ensure you get the compensation and treatment that you deserve. Again, the purpose of this exam is to gain a more in-depth understanding of your injuries and how they are affecting your ability to work.
How to Prepare:
Your workers’ comp physician will pay close attention to you and how you act during your exam to ensure you aren’t exaggerating your injury. Therefore, it’s important to stay calm and tell them the truth. The following will help you make a good impression and ensure you have all of the information you need:
- Arrive on time – early is best.
- Dress well.
- Come prepared to answer all questions relating to your injury. This means writing down how, when, and where it happened and everything that happened afterward. Additionally, keep note of all of your symptoms and how the injury has affected your daily life.
- Keep a record of everything in case you need to get a lawyer involved.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask During An IME
While it is difficult to know exactly what your doctor will do during the exam, there are some typical questions that workers’ comp physicians tend to ask. Knowing these questions ahead of time will help you come better prepared to answer as best as possible. Questions may be related to:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Past injuries
- Your current injury and symptoms
- How the injury has affected your ability to live your daily life and return to work
- How the accident happened
- Symptoms you were experiencing before or during the incident
- What diagnosis and treatments did you receive initially from the doctor that treated you right after the incident
- What your current treatments and therapies are
What to Avoid Doing or Saying During Your IME
How you act and what you say during your IME can impact your exam and the doctors’ opinion of you and your injury, which can negatively affect the amount of compensation you receive. The tips below will help you better understand the process and what you should avoid doing or saying.
1. Don’t Exaggerate Your Injury or Symptoms
Understandably, you may feel the need to exaggerate how you are feeling to get more money or even to simply get what you think you deserve. However, workers’ comp physicians are trained to tell when a patient is lying, and if you do so, it will make them highly suspicious, which could lead to a bad review.
It’s best to be straightforward and honest about the injury, how it happened, and what symptoms you are experiencing. Your doctor will perform a series of tests that will tell them if what you are saying is true or not.
2. Don’t Be Difficult
Knowing that the IME is an attempt on the part of the insurance company to potentially decrease your compensation amount may lead you to feel negative about the exam. However, acting rude or being difficult with your doctor is another sign that you may be hiding something. Even if you are telling the truth, doing so in an unfriendly manner can negatively impact your results.
3. Don’t Lie
Do not lie or hold back information about your past injuries or symptoms you had before the workplace accident occurred. You may worry that this information will negatively affect your current case, but it is unwise. Your doctor has access to all of your past medical records, so if you lie, they will know.
Additionally, do not lie or leave out information pertaining to the current injury and how it happened. Even if you are concerned that you did something wrong or that it will make you look bad, it’s best to be honest about what happened. Your doctor is trained to look for inconsistencies and information that does not add up. Don’t admit fault outright, but still be honest about the events leading up to the accident and anything else that happened after.
What You Should Say to Your Workers’ Comp Doctor
The goal with your IME is to be honest and friendly to leave a good impression on your doctor. You want them on your side, and the best way to do so is to tell the truth. If you are upfront about your current injuries, past injuries, and how the accident occurred, they will see that you are being genuine in your responses.
It’s also helpful to ask questions and to mention that you just want to live your life again without being hindered by your injury. This will prove to your doctor that you are genuinely interested in your recovery and are not exaggerating anything in an effort to get out of work or to get more money than you deserve.
Connect with an Experienced Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you are concerned about receiving fair treatment or are simply worried about doing or saying the wrong thing, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help. They have years of experience dealing with these types of cases and will work with you to guide you through the process. Their goal is to help you get the compensation you deserve to recover with peace of mind and get back to living your life.
For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Mississippi, contact Lunsford, Baskin, and Priebe, PLLC. After-hours visits are available.