Independent Medical Exams
By Nick Wearne, Attorney
In the world of workers' compensation law there are two types of medical care, active care, and supportive care. In the months following a worker’s injury you will receive active care.
Active care is medical treatment designed to improve your medical condition. In some cases an injured worker will undergo active care until they are back to 100% functioning capacity. This is what we hope happens for all of our clients. Unfortunately, in many cases injured workers will never reach 100%. Instead, they plateau at some point in their active care, and stop getting any better. Some people experience this plateau at 90%, others stop improving at 50% or lower and their earning capacity is severely limited.
The moment when you stop getting better despite medical treatment is called ‘medically stationary.’ Once you have become ‘medically stationary,’ medical care becomes supportive. Supportive care is not intended to improve your medical condition, but to keep it stable. Examples of supportive care include pain medicine, epidural shots, physical therapy, and more.
When an injured worker becomes ‘medically stationary and begins receiving supportive care his/her rights change and often times the worker will be entitled to less compensation then they were entitled to during active care. Insurance companies that are paying out on your claim want you to reach ‘medically stationary” as soon as possible. For this purpose insurance carriers will often schedule what is called an ‘Independent Medical Examination’ (IME).
IMEs are scheduled with a physician of the insurance company’s choice. Such physicians are normally more than willing to give an opinion that the worker has reached ‘Maximum Medical Improvement,’ thus allowing the carrier to reduce a worker’s benefits. While perhaps hard to believe, it is the insurance companies right to schedule these appointments and you must attend them. Failure to attend an IME could result in complete termination of your benefits.
Too often, injured workers who are still improving get their cases closed out and their medical care cut short because of mandatory IMEs. At Snow, Carpio, and Weekley we fight unwarranted benefit reductions that result because of an IME, we fight to get our clients back in active care, and we fight to get you back on the path to full recovery. If you feel your benefits have been, or will be, cut short due to an IME, you should call an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.
If you or someone you know has been injured at work or has a medical condition that will prevent them from working for 12 months or more, call Snow, Carpio & Weekley toll-free at 855-325-4781 to schedule a free consultation in person at one of our offices around the State or over the phone. You can also find out more about our firm by visiting our website at www.workinjuryaz.com.