When you are injured at work, there are a few hoops you need to jump through to get your workers’ compensation benefits. First, you must report the injury as soon as possible. Then you must be examined by a doctor. While this is to be expected, you may not know that in Tennessee, you also need to undergo an independent medical examination, which is done by a different doctor than your primary care provider (PCP). Trouble happens when the doctor who performed the independent medical examination disagrees with your PCP about your level of impairment or injury. Afterall, if one doctor says that you are fit to return to work, and the other says you are not fit, then that can lead to a confusing and unsure path forward when it comes to your job, and frankly when it comes to your safety as well.
So today, let’s look at the process and talk about what happens if your doctors disagree about your work injury.
What is an IME?
An IME is an independent medical examination. IMEs are usually requested by your employer or an insurance carrier. These parties will order an IME because they are looking for information on whether or not your medical condition is an injury that falls under the category of compensable. In other words, they want to know whether you really have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
It sounds simple enough, but IMEs can be more devious than they seem. Since they are often requested through your workers’ compensation insurance provider, the doctors who perform IMEs are paid by the insurance provider themselves. This means that the IME doctors work to please those who pay them, and they may not necessarily be thinking of your best interests. These doctors can make good money by doing very little to help you.
What happens if my doctor and my IME disagree?
If you receive an injury at work, you are required to undergo an IME, but you can also schedule a visit with your primary care physician (PCP). Your PCP may examine you and find that you are not fit and able to return to work safely, but your IME shows that you’re fine. When this happens, there are a few things you should do to protect your job AND your health, which should be your top priorities.
The first thing you should do is make sure you contact a Tennessee worker’s compensation attorney. You don’t want to risk being out of work, injured, and stuck with all sorts of fees and bills on top of everything else. An attorney can make sure you get the compensation you need and deserve, so that you can focus on getting better. Don’t let the complicated legal system keep you from receiving the financial compensation you have a legal right to. Let us take care of it.
The next thing you should do is document everything. Take note of the work you can safely do and the work you are unable to do. If you were told to return to work with restrictions, then it might be in your best interest to return to your job and to follow those restrictions for the time being. In doing this, you still bring home an income, and you will keep your job if you are re-injured at work again. However, if you are too injured to return to work despite what your IME doctor said, then you should not return to work. You do not want to risk re-injury if you think you are at a great risk for it by returning to your job.
If this happens, it is best to consult with your workers’ compensation attorney and your PCP about the next steps going forward. We know the complex legal system concerning IMEs and workers’ compensation backwards and forwards.
Will I lose my benefits?
You have rights as an employee to receive benefits when injured on the job. If you think the conclusion your IME doctor came to is incorrect, then your right to benefits does not end there. While this step can be complicated and difficult, this is where having an attorney will help you. They will help you dispute the IME’s report and file a workers’ compensation lawsuit with the state’s Workers Compensation Commission.
However, if you do not act to fight against the incorrect IME, then your benefits could end. This is the point where you must fight to keep your benefits, and our experienced lawyers will assist you in keeping those benefits for as long as you need them.
Suffering an injury on the job is a literal and figurative pain to begin with. Having to go through an IME only for them to deny the extent of your injury is a slap to the face. This time in your life is difficult enough without the hardship of this legal mess in your lap. Let us take some of the load off your shoulders, so that you can focus on healing and returning to work when you are actually fit to return. Risking re-injury or worsening your current condition is not something you should have to do.
If you’re seeking workers’ compensation, but your IME report is making it difficult, then contact the Nashville workers’ compensation lawyers at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm. Call us at 615-425-2500 or you can fill out our contact form, if that’s easier for you. We’d love to set up a consultation with you at one of our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville.