In Minnesota, the employer or insurance company is entitled to an independent medical examination of an injured worker seeking workers’ compensation benefits. If the insurance company initially denies benefits and the worker files a Claim Petition, the independent medical examination (IME) must take place within 120 days after the petition filing date. If the insurance company is paying some benefits already, it can request an IME while the case is open.
Usually, insurance companies are more likely to request IMEs for cases that are open longer. The reasoning is that the longer the case goes on, the more benefits the company will have to pay. If the worker has a minor injury and will return to work in only a month or two, it is not worth the time and expense. But for a claimed serious injury and long-term benefit payments, the insurance company could save some money by contesting the seriousness of the injury and the need for further medical treatment.
While lawyers refer to them as “independent” medical exams, IMEs are really just attempts by the insurance company to get reports in their favor. Insurance companies get to pick the doctors that perform the IMEs. These doctors receive payment in return for their services. The insurance companies then use these doctors’ IME reports to justify continued denial of benefits or discontinuance of benefits.
Fortunately, injured employees have a few ways to respond when IME reports are unfavorable. For one, the opinion of their primary treating physician carries weight with both workers’ compensation judges and Qualified Rehabilitation Consultants. A QRC can take into account the primary treating physician’s opinion and should not consider the IME doctor’s opinion when creating a rehabilitation plan. Further, your lawyer may take the deposition of the IME doctor to attempt to discredit his or her opinions.
Even though you may not want to attend an IME, you are required to do so by the workers’ compensation rules. You need to show up to continue receiving or to get benefits. At the exam, the doctor will conduct a physical evaluation and ask you questions about your work injury and symptoms. After the exam, the doctor will write a report. In most cases you will not have to travel more than 150 miles from your home for the exam, and it may last a few hours.
If you receive a notice that the insurance company has scheduled an independent medical examination and you do not have a lawyer, now is a great time to get one. The lawyer you choose should have experience contesting the results of an IME. He or she can answer your questions and hopefully take some of the weight off your shoulders as you continue to fight for benefits.
Have you received a notice of scheduling an independent medical examination in your case? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.