What is an IME?
If you have been injured and filed a claim for workers’ compensation or personal injury, you might have been directed to participate in an independent medical examination (IME) or qualified medical evaluation. It can be confusing to know which type of medical examination applies under which circumstances and how they might affect your claims. Below, we explain IMEs and how they factor into your personal injury claim. If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence in Southern California, call a knowledgeable Riverside personal injury attorney for help maximizing your compensation.
IMEs in Personal Injury Cases
In the State of California, independent medical examinations are utilized in personal injury cases that do not involve a workplace injury. In a standard personal injury case, California Civil Code sections 2032.210-2032.260 provide that the defendant has the right to request a physical examination of the plaintiff in order to assess their injuries. This is commonly known as an independent medical examination (IME).
The examination may be requested so long as the exam does not involve tests that are “painful, protracted, or intrusive,” and the test can be conducted at a location within 75 miles of the plaintiff. The purpose of the IME is to give the defendant the right to have an “independent” doctor, meaning a doctor unaffiliated with the patient or their case, to conduct an examination of the plaintiff’s physical condition and evaluate their claimed injuries.
QME vs. IME
If you were injured at work and are pursuing workers’ compensation coverage, you could be directed to participate in a qualified medical evaluation. A medical evaluation is called for when you and the workers’ comp insurance provider disagree about whether you suffered a compensable injury or the degree of your disability.
If you, your attorney, and the insurer agree upon a particular medical evaluator to conduct the examination, you can obtain an evaluation from that agreed medical evaluator (AME). If you do not agree, or if you do not have an attorney, the state Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) Medical Unit may assign you a panel of three possible qualified medical evaluators (QMEs) from a set list of certified experts. You can then choose one of the three to conduct the examination.
Plaintiffs’ Rights and the IME Process
Personal injury plaintiffs have several rights with regard to the IME. Plaintiffs do not have to consent to the IME, but they must formally object and state their reasons for the objections. Typically, the objection relates to the location of the IME, the chosen doctor as being unlicensed or otherwise unqualified, the scope of the IME as being outside the proper scope of the dispute, or that the requested IME will involve overly intrusive or painful testing.
Should the plaintiff consent to the IME, they can have an attorney present and have the whole examination recorded via stenographer or audio recording. If the plaintiff wants to have someone else present–such as a parent, family member, or their own personal physician–they must ask the court for permission. The court has the discretion to allow or disallow another party to be present during the IME.
Plaintiffs also have the right to limit the scope of any questioning to the current injury or accident, the history of their treatment to date, a description of their injuries, and a statement of present complaints. The doctor can also ask about the patient’s medical history and any other questions that they would normally ask when treating a patient. There’s limited case law about what the IME physician may ask about during the course of the examination, as the statute merely says that a “physical examination” may be requested. The plaintiff’s attorney can help keep the scope of the physician’s questions appropriately limited.
If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt on the job in California, get help seeking the workers’ compensation benefits you’re owed by contacting the Riverside offices of Ochoa & Calderón for a consultation on your case.