In many workers’ compensation cases, the injured worker, the employer, or insurance carrier may desire an “independent medical examination” (IME) or “second opinion.” This generally occurs when the one of the parties is dissatisfied with the current physician’s diagnosis, prognosis, or care plan. The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act provides the employer or insurance carrier the ability to compel an injured worker to an IME by a physician of the employer or insurance carrier’s choosing. See, O.C.G.A. 34-9-202 (a). While the IME may suggest that the physician, handpicked by the insurance company, is an impartial and “independent” doctor, they are not. These doctors are generally known to the insurance company as being hostile to the injured worker and being skeptical about work injuries as a whole.
These IME’s may include testing, physical or psychiatric examinations. The employer and insurance carrier must provide the injured worker or his attorney written notice at least ten (10) days prior to the IME and advance proper payment for travel expenses. Unfortunately, the law does not specify how many IME’s the employer or insurance company can send an injured worker to during a case.
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act also provides the injured worker one (1) IME of his or her own, provided that the injured employee has received workers’ compensation income benefits within the last 120 days. Presuming that the injured worker has received income benefits, he or she may choose any physician in the general area to conduct the “Claimant’s IME” at the Employer/Insurer’s expense. The injured employee must provide advance written notice of the IME to the insurance carrier. Generally, these IME’s are valuable to the employee as it provides an alternative to the employer directed medical care.
These IME’s may prove to be helpful to the injured worker or the employer/insurer. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation should give the authorized treating physician some deference as he or she has been treating the injured worker for a longer period of time. However, every case is different, and the presiding judge has the power to give weight to whichever medical opinion is more persuasive to him or her.
If you are looking to get a second opinion or have been compelled to an IME, it is important to be prepared. Don’t go at it along. Call the Ramos Law Firm today for a free consultation.