February 24, 2020

Am I Entitled to More than One Independent Medical Exam if I have Multiple Work Injuries?

posted panel of physiciansUnder Georgia’s workers’ compensation law, your employer gets to direct where you get medical care if your employer provides you with a valid “posted panel of physicians.”   Not surprisingly, posted panel doctors sometimes bring a pro-employer bias to their treatment of you.  I regularly see – and you have no doubt heard stories about – cases in which a seriously injured man or woman is given a regular duty return to work, only to end up in surgery a few weeks later.

In 1990, the Georgia legislature gave injured workers an important new right, the “claimant’s IME (independent medical exam).  Under this law, an injured worker can request an independent medical examination with a doctor of his choosing, paid for by the employer’s insurance company.

When properly used as part of a effective claim strategy, your claimant’s IME can be used to:

  • refute the unfair and biased claim of industrial clinic doctors
  • contest a premature return to work demand by the insurance adjuster
  • support a request for a change in authorized treating physician
  • support a reasonable settlement demand

However, as important and valuable as your claimant’s IME rights may be, this right is not open ended and it can be wasted if not used properly.

Specifically, I am referring to situations in which you may have injuries to multiple body parts and you are receiving treatment from several different doctors.   Recently, for example I represented a young man who had fallen almost 4 stories from a building, causing injury to his spine, a broken leg and a closed head injury.   In this case, I felt that the orthopedic doctor treating the leg and back injury, and the neurologist treating the closed head injury were not providing the level of treatment appropriate for the degree of injury.

Unfortunately, Georgia law does not provide for more than one claimant’s IME, even when multiple body parts are affected.   Therefore, I had to choose between an orthopedist and a neurologist for the claimant’s IME.  In this particular case I chose to request an orthopedic IME because I felt that my client had a more immediate need for back care and because I felt that I would have opportunity later to challenge the opinion of treating neurologist.

The points to remember about the claimant’s IME:

  • be very careful about choosing to use this right – you will have one and only one opportunity to demand an insurer paid independent medical exam.  Knowing when to assert this right and knowing who to choose to perform this exam are crucial factors
  • if you have injury to more than one body part, you only get one IME
  • the insurance adjuster is not an appropriate resource to advise you about how and when to assert your IME rights

If you have questions about your claimant’s Independent Medical Exam rights, please do not hesitate to call me at 770-351-0801 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 770-351-0801 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email me.   Please also feel free to post a comment on my blog.

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Jodi Ginsberg

Attorney Jodi Ginsberg represents employees who are injured on the job and who need medical care and missed wage benefits available under Georgia's workers' compensation laws.

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