What is an IME or Independent Medical Examination?
In many workers’ compensation cases, the injured worker, the employer, or the insurance carrier may desire an independent medical examination (IME) or a second opinion. This generally occurs when one of the parties is dissatisfied with the current physician’s diagnosis, prognosis, or care plan.
IME Under Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act allows the employer or insurance carrier to compel an injured worker to undergo an IME by a physician of the employer or insurance carrier’s choosing. See O.C.G.A. 34-9-202 (a). While the IME may suggest that the physician, handpicked by the insurance company, is an impartial and independent doctor, they are not. These doctors are generally hostile to injured workers and sympathetic to employers and insurance companies.
IMEs may include testing and physical or psychiatric examinations. The employer and insurance carrier must provide you or your attorney written notice at least ten (10) days before the IME and advance proper payment for travel expenses. Unfortunately, the law does not specify how many IMEs the employer or insurance company can send an injured worker to during a case. Given the insurance companies’ unlimited budgets, they may send the injured worker to several IMEs.
Independent Medical Evaluation Benefits for Workers
In accepted cases, the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act provides the injured worker one (1) IME of his or her own, provided you have received workers’ compensation income benefits within the last 120 days. Presuming you have received income benefits, you may choose any physician in the general area to conduct the “Claimant’s IME” at the employer’s/insurer’s expense. You must provide advance written notice of the IME to the insurance carrier. Generally, these IMEs are valuable to the employee as it provides an alternative to employer-directed medical care.
These IMEs may prove to be helpful to you or the employer/insurer. Generally, administrative law judges give the authorized treating physician some deference as he or she has been treating the injured worker for longer. However, every case is different. The presiding judge can give weight to whichever medical opinion is more persuasive to him or her.