What Is An “IME?”
We sometimes hear our clients ask what is an “IME?” An “IME” is an “independent medical examination.” If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit and are claiming permanent injury, the defense has a right, at their own expense, to hire a doctor of their choosing, and have the client submit to a medical examination to determine whether the accident did cause a permanent injury. Calling these examinations “independent” is really a misnomer. They should be properly called “DMEs” which would mean “Defense medical examinations.”
The court authority for allowing the examination is under sec. 804.10 (1) of the Wisconsin Statutes. Where permanency is claimed, in some cases, if there is an issue of causation, at the request of defense counsel, the plaintiff must submit to an examination of a physician chosen by defense counsel. The plaintiff has no say in the choice of the physician. During the course of litigation, the plaintiff will be required to sign various medical authorizations to release both their medical records from the accident, as well as prior medical records whether related to the injuries sustained in the accident or not. Once those medical records are compiled, they will be shipped off to the doctor who is conducting the defense medical examination to review. The physician will spend a very short period of time interviewing the plaintiff and conducting a very cursory physical examination of the patient. The plaintiff’s lawyer does not typically attend the medical examination. The doctor may charge anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 for conducting such an examination and more likely than not, has done numerous similar examinations for the insurance company. Once the written report is received, you can change the names of the plaintiff, and the reports, but they usually read the same; “no permanency found,” “any injuries should have resolved within a short period of time after the accident,” “if the plaintiff was injured at all, it was simply a re-aggravation of a pre-existing problem,” “the accident could not have caused the injuries claimed by the plaintiff.”
The trial court will usually set in a scheduling order, when discovery has to be completed, and this would include the naming of defense witnesses and experts, including the deadline when the defense medical examination must be completed by. That is a process that can run anywhere from 9 months to over a year, from the filing of a lawsuit.
When the term “independent medical examination” is used, it is really unfair, because the physician who is conducting the examination of the plaintiff, is a “hired gun” of the insurance company. Not only will the physician write a report to make the plaintiff look bad, but if the case proceeds to trial, the physician will be required to testify in court regarding their findings and opinions. How can a doctor who spends 15 minutes with a patient, possibly know what was wrong with them, while they were under their own doctor’s care for months or years after the accident? Who knows the patient better than their own doctor? Unfortunately, for plaintiffs involved in personal injury lawsuits, they can be compelled by court order if they fail to cooperate, to have the defense medical examination completed. I encourage my clients to cooperate with the process, but explain to them not to get upset once they read the report, as the report is a completely one sided and designed specifically to slam the plaintiff to make their case look bad.
If you are going through a lawsuit and have questions about permanent injury or disability, contact one of our attorneys for a consultation at Karp & Iancu, S.C.