Written by attorney Terence Sean McGraw

Tips for a Successful Independent Medical Examination

  • Be on time.

• Dress neatly.

• Be courteous.

• Don’t allow any more than one doctor to look at you unless two examinations were scheduled ahead of time.

• Do not submit to any additional tests without talking to your lawyer.

• Schedule an examination with your treating physician as soon as you can after the IME.

• TELL THE TRUTH. Nothing will hurt your case more easily than if you fail to be honest about your situation.

• Understand that the examination is probably not going to be favorable to you. You can only decrease the ways that it can be truly harmful.

• GIVE AN ACCURATE HISTORY. “History" is the word that doctors use to talk about the information that you tell them about yourself, particularly, how your problem started, when it started, whether you have had similar problems before, etc.

• The day before the exam, sit down and write out a brief outline of the history of your problem, including:

• What is the problem you have?

• When did it start?

• How did it start?

• Have you had similar problems before?

• When did you first seek treatment for your problem?

• Where did you first seek treatment for your problem?

• What treatment did that provider give you?

• Were you referred to a different provider?

• Did the treatment help or hurt? How?

• Since the injury began, have you improved, stayed the same or gotten worse?

• If your condition has changed, can you explain why you think it changed?

• Imagine you are a medical scanning device. Start from the tip of your head and and work to the tips of your toes.

• After your list is complete, try to remember, as best you can, when each symptom started. Has it gotten better, worse or stayed the same? What has caused those changes? Note the answers to these questions next to each symptom.

• Make a list of every test, such as an EMG, MRI, CAT scan, Xray, etc that you have been given. Note the date of the test and whether you were told it was positive or negative.

• Make a list of every medication that you have been prescribed, the dosage, and the number of times you take it per day. Note the doctor who prescribed the medication, when you started taking it, and when you stopped taking it (if you stopped).

• Make a list of every illness, injury, accident or medical problem you have suffered or continue to suffer whether or not you think it is related to the problem that is the reason for your examination.

• Take the medication list, test list, other problem list, and history outline with you to the examination. Offer the examining doctor the opportunity to make a copy of your lists. Provide a copy of all your lists to your lawyer after your examination.

• Take any of your medical records and tests that you may have with you to the examination. Do not feel that it is your responsibility to collect all this information if you do not have it. But, if you have it, take it with you. Offer the doctor an opportunity to make a copy.

• TAKE SOMEONE WITH YOU IF YOU CAN. Give that person the job of writing down when you arrived, when you were called to the examining room, and when you leave. If the doctor allows your friend into the examination (the doctor does not have to), have your friend also record how long you spend giving your history and how long is spent actually examining you. Note whether the doctor or somebody else records your history. Ask for a copy of any form you complete. Don’t make a fuss if you are told you can’t have one.

• THE EXAMINATION BEGINS THE MINUTE YOU ARRIVE IN THE PARKING LOT. Some examining doctors like to play detective. They will watch you as you approach the office building if they can. THE EXAMINATION ENDS WHEN YOUR CAR LEAVES THE PARKING LOT. And, on some occasions, insurance companies hire detectives to conduct surveillance of claimants from the time they leave home for the examination to the time they return home.

• Try to be as complete about your history as you can. This will depend on the questions the doctor asks you and the opportunity he gives you to respond. Don’t try to force the doctor into listening to what you think is important. After the exam, note whether you think the doctor gave you a full opportunity to tell him about your problem.

• MAKE SURE THAT YOU TELL THE DOCTOR ABOUT ALL OTHER PROBLEMS. Don’t limit your answers to the problem you are being examined for. If the doctor asks whether you have had other illnesses, accidents, injuries or surgeries, tell the doctor about all problems whether they are similar to your current problem or not. IME doctors love to be able to find something in your medical records that you did not tell them about, so they can suggest you were less than honest. Tell them everything.

• Cooperate fully with the examination. Try to perform every maneuver. When something hurts you, tell the doctor. Don’t tell the doctor you can’t perform a certain maneuver just because you know it is painful or you do not want to. Make sure that “can’t" really means you “can’t," rather than you “don’t want to."

• Don’t be a hero. If something is hurting you, tell the doctor.

• Describe your pain and symptoms as accurately as you can. Don’t overstate your symptoms. Don’t understate your symptoms.

• Don’t be categorical. When you describe your pain or you limitations, understand that these symptoms almost always fluctuate in frequency and severity. Avoid using words like “always," “never," “can’t", “don’t." These words imply that your symptoms and limitations are always the same. Instead, use phrases like “most of the time" or “I try not to" or “usually, when I."

• Don’t tell the doctor that something is painful because you think it is supposed to be painful. Certain maneuvers that doctors perform are not supposed to produce pain. They are just testing you. Do not assume that something is supposed to hurt just because the doctor says “tell me when this hurts."

• Understand that IME doctors have different ways to test the same body function and that they love to find inconsistencies.

• Understand that doctors perform some maneuvers while distracting you with a different maneuvers or a question about a different body part.

• The only way you can effectively combat these techniques to find inconsistencies is to be completely honest about what you feel during the examination.

• Take a camera to the examination. If your injury looks swollen, red, discolored, shiny, and you think a picture will record that, take a picture of your injury and something in the examination location to prove it was taken there. Do this before and/or after the examination, depending on when a visible condition is present.

• After the examination is over, your job is not done. Record your impressions, concerns, questions, and recollections of the IME in writing.

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