Serious accidents typically involve high monetary payments, either from the person at fault or from an insurance company. Persons responsible for paying for physical injuries sustained in an accident usually want to ensure that the injuries are real before expending large sums of money. In addition, responsible parties may want to find out if the injuries are as bad as the victim claims they are. Hence, an evaluation from a doctor other than the victim's doctor may be required. This is known as an "independent medical evaluation" (or IME) in personal injury cases.
Reasons for IMEs
A victim of a serious accident may be examined and treated by a doctor of his or her choosing soon after the accident. One concern is that the victim's own physician may be somewhat biased towards the victim in assessing the extent of the injuries. Therefore, the party being sued for compensation for the victim's injuries may want to have an independent physician examine the victim. This is especially true if the victim has not yet been examined. The independent physician may examine to make sure the victim did in fact sustain injuries, to affirm that the injuries are as serious as the victim claims them to be, and to make sure the injuries are not attributable to a different cause.
When IMEs Can Be Ordered
If the injured party does not wish to attend an independent medical examination, he or she may be compelled to do so in certain circumstances. For example, many states have passed laws allowing insurance companies to compel an independent medical examination when a claim seems questionable. Such an exam can typically only be compelled when the insurance policy contains language requiring the insured party to submit to an exam. The insured may not be required to submit to an exam if the circumstances of the exam would amount to an undue burden, such as requiring the insured to travel long distances from home.
Most states also have court rules which provide that a judge may order an independent medical examination under certain circumstances. Usually, an examination can be ordered if a person's physical or mental injuries are in dispute. However, if a person claims he has physical injuries but only sues for damages to his car, an examination will not be ordered. In addition, an examination may not be ordered if a victim sues after an injury has completely healed.
Examinations may be ordered in lawsuits other than personal injury suits as well. For example, an examination may be ordered in a child custody dispute to determine whether a parent is emotionally stable enough to maintain custody of a child.
If an IME is Ordered
If an independent medical examination is ordered, the injured party may be required to submit to more than one exam. However, the party seeking to compel an examination is often required to pay for the examination. Sometimes the party attempting to compel the examination may choose the examining physician. In cases where the parties are at odds over which physician to use, the court may decide the physician. The injured party's attorney may be allowed to attend the examination as well.
If you've been injured in an accident and plan to recover money from someone else for your injuries, it's safe to assume that you will be required to submit to an independent medical evaluation. The examination should not be feared, but simply treated like any other examination by a physician. However, in order to better protect your rights, it's in your best interests to meet with an attorney before submitting to a medical examination. If you're interested in learning more about your case, a good first step is to contact an experienced attorney for a free claim evaluation.