If you are injured in a workers’ compensation case, several doctors can impact your case. Your primary doctor, the treating workers’ compensation doctor, and the Independent Medical Exam (IME) doctor. Let’s start by defining what role each may play.
Your Primary Doctor – This is your regular primary care physician and maybe the one you go to when you are first injured. In most cases, you have a relationship with your doctor and are confident that they will look out for your best interest. This can be the same doctor as a treating workers compensation doctor but does not have to be.
Treating Workers Compensation Doctor – This is the doctor treating the specific injuries that occurred while you were on the job. This can often be a different doctor than your primary doctor, depending on your treatment needs. It can also be beneficial to work with a doctor who is a workers compensation specialist as they can assist with all the documentation needed for a workers compensation case.
Independent Medical Exam (IME) Doctor – These doctors conduct IMEs on behalf of the insurance company. This same insurance company pays them, so it is common for an IME doctor to disagree with your doctor or the doctor providing care for your workers’ comp injury. Since the workers’ compensation insurance company pays this doctor, they have an incentive to please them, not necessarily to look out for your best interest. Most IME doctors do little other than conduct IMEs and can make good money helping insurance companies deny or limit insurance payouts.
So what happens if your doctor and the IME doctor disagree?
If the IME report clears you for work or work with restrictions, what are your options? You should do a few things to protect your job and ensure your health is the top priority. The first thing you should do if you have not already is to contact an experienced workers compensation attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and provide recommendations and advice.
As with everything related to workers’ compensation cases document everything, an experienced workers’ compensation doctor can also help with this. Document how much work you can do or whether you can work at all. If you can work with some restrictions, it may be in your best interest to return to work and abide by these restrictions. This way, you will still get a paycheck if your benefits are terminated, and you avoid the risk of losing your job if you are re-injured while at work. If that happens, you can go back to your treating physician and have them write a report to help your case. If you are genuinely unable to work, don’t risk re-injury by returning to work. Talk with your workers’ compensation attorney about the next steps you need to take.
Workers’ compensation cases can be complicated, so it is important to work with a treating doctor experienced in this area and, if needed, with an experienced attorney.
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