Independent medical examinations (IMEs) are very common in Arkansas workers’ compensation claims. The way it typically works is that the insurance company or one of its agents contacts the injured employee, in the middle of a claim, and says: “We’re going to set you up for a second opinion.” Most claimants don’t know a whole lot about workers’ compensation law and just want to get physically better, so they usually think seeing another doctor for free is a great idea. But is it? Insurance carriers are typically very interested in two things: 1. Getting a case closed. 2. Saving as much cash as possible while doing so. In order to better facilitate this, insurance companies often reuse the same physicians they’ve retained (and paid a bunch of money to) for IMEs in past cases; hoping that the IME doctor will once again arrive at a medical conclusion that will somehow impair an injured workers’ claim.
Under Arkansas law, an IME must be, among other things, reasonable, necessary, convenient for the claimant, and actually ‘independent.’ If a proposed IME doctor is generally well known in workers’ compensation system circles as an ‘insurance’ doctor, it would be difficult to contemplate that an IME conducted by that particular physician either would or ever could actually be ‘independent’ in nature. Unfortunately, many lawyers just go ahead and allow their clients to attend an IME scheduled by an insurance company, without putting much thought into either the IME itself or the potential damage it could ultimately do to the case. Legally resisting an independent medical examination that isn’t actually ‘independent’ could mean the difference between developing a solid case for a client, while he or she remains in a state of improving physical and mental health; and having a denied claim with medical evidence too damaging to possibly ever overcome.
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Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law