Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tiebreaker IME's in Arizona Workers Comp Cases

One issue that is frequently litigated in Arizona work injury claims is whether or not additional medical care is necessary or not and whether or not it is related to the industrial injury. Usually there is a treating doctor on the side of the applicant wanting to perform additional care and a defense medical expert on the side of the carrier saying either that no further care is needed, or that any additional treatment is not related to the work accident.

The problem with litigating these medical issues is that they can often take forever to litigate, often up to 10 or 12 months. Meanwhile, the injured worker is suffering and not receiving any compensation. One solution that I often recommend to my clients is proposing a "tiebreaker" IME to the carrier/employer's attorney. A tiebreaker is a truly "independent" medical exam where the physician is agreed to by the two parties and a joint letter sent explaining the tiebreaker agreement.

There are positives and negatives about these kinds of agreements. On the positive side, the injured worker gets a decision about their claim much sooner and it is made by a doctor, not a judge. On the negative side, if the doctor indicates that no further treatment is needed, the injured worker is bound by that opinion.

Tiebreaker IME's aren't always the best option, but in cases where I feel that the diagnostic testing is strong and my client is very credible, I'm comfortable recommending them as an alternative to the lengthy litigation process.

Chad T. Snow and his associates at Snow, Carpio, and Weekley are workers compensation attorneys in Phoenix and Tucson Arizona. Their office can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000.

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