Do I Have to Attend an Independent Medical Examination?

Our clients frequently ask whether they will have to attend an independent medical examination (IME). They are often fearful about attending a physical or mental evaluation by the employer/insurer’s expert.

An Employee must attend an employer/insurer’s reasonable request for an IME

According to Minnesota Statutes section 176.155, subdivision 1, “The injured employee must submit to examination by the employer’s physician, if requested by the employer, and at reasonable times thereafter upon the employer’s request.”

What is a “reasonable” request for an Independent Medical Examination?

Whether the employer/insurer’s request is “reasonable” is a question of fact, decided by the Workers’ Compensation Judge. Whether the employer/insurer’s request is “reasonable” may depend on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, whether the employee received sufficient notice of the scheduled IME, whether the employee is physically able to attend the IME, and the recency of the employee’s last IME. However, in most cases, the employer/insurer’s request for an independent medical examination will be deemed “reasonable.”

An employer/insurer cannot compel an employee to attend an IME before proceedings commence

Recently, Meuser, Yackley & Rowland successfully argued a case before the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding whether an employee must attend an Independent Medical Request before workers’ compensation proceedings are initiated.

To watch a video of Attorney Lindsey Meuser Rowland’s oral argument before the Minnesota Supreme Court in Hawley v. City of Blaine and League of Minnesota Cities, click on the link below.

http://www.mncourts.gov/SupremeCourt/OralArgumentWebcasts/ArgumentDetail.aspx?vid=1358

The practical effect of the Court’s decision is that a Workers’ Compensation Judge cannot hear an employer/insurer’s motion to compel an independent medical examination if the employer/insurer has denied liability for the employee’s injury and if the employee has not yet initiated a proceeding by filing a claim petition.

An Independent Medical Examination is not actually independent

The important thing to remember is that whether you are attending an IME or an IPE, the expert hired by the employer/insurer is not independent. Rather, the expert is adverse. The expert is not hired to find the truth, the expert is bought and paid for by the employer/insurer to provide the employer/insurer with defenses, reasons that the employer/insurer can use to justify denying your claim and refusing to pay for the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to.

What if I refuse to attend an Independent Medical Examination?

If you refuse to attend the employer/insurer’s “reasonable” request for an independent medical examination, the Workers’ Compensation Judge may suspend your entitlement to wage-loss benefits during the period of refusal, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes section 176.155, subdivision 3.

What if I am a “no show” for an Independent Medical Examination?

Again, the consequences of failing to comply with an employer/insurer’s reasonable request for an IME are significant. If you fail to attend a previously scheduled IME, then you may be held responsible for paying for the cancellation fee (or, the cost of the appointment). The cancellation fee/cost of the appointment could be between $500 to $5,000 depending on the type of examination.

Furthermore, if you have an admitted claim and you fail to attend a previously scheduled IME, then the employer/insurer could discontinue, or a Workers’ Compensation Judge could suspend, your wage-loss benefits for failure to cooperate. If you have a denied claim, then the Workers’ Compensation Judge could suspend your ability to claim wage-loss benefits during the period of refusal.

Will I have to attend multiple Independent Medical Examinations?

It depends. An employee may have to attend multiple independent medical examinations if the injuries require evaluation by doctors with different types of expertise. For example, an employee involved in a work-related motor vehicle accident, who suffers from a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and physical injuries to his/her neck and back as a result of the crash, may have to attend an IME with a neurologist (to assess the traumatic brain injury), a neuro-ophthalmologist (to assess post-concussive vision changes), a psychologist or psychiatrist (to assess the PTSD), and an orthopedist (to assess the physical injuries to the neck and back).

Or, if an employee suffers a longstanding injury, then he/she may need to attend another IME after the significant passage of time or after a significant change in his/her condition, treatment, or prognosis. For example, an employee with an admitted PTSD claim may have to attend another IPE after a year or two, to assess whether the employee continues to suffer from the effects of his/her work-related injury. Similarly, an employee with an admitted back injury may have to attend an IME shortly after the injury and, again, after undergoing and recovering from a related surgery.

What should I do if I receive notice of an Independent Medical Examination?

If you receive notice that you have been scheduled to attend an independent medical examination, don’t panic, call an attorney. The attorneys at Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. will help you prepare for your independent medical examination and will ensure that your rights are protected. Contact us today at 1-877-746-5680 for a FREE, confidential, no-obligation consultation.

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