Generally, an independent medical examination, or IME, refers to an unbiased medical evaluation performed by an objective, third-party physician. It is typically conducted to settle legal conflicts regarding an individual’s medical condition or injury following an accident.
An IME will determine or confirm the extent and severity of a person’s injuries, the medical treatments they need, possible disability, and when they might return to work. It will also have a huge impact on granting or denying an individual’s benefits, coverage, or compensation claim.
An independent medical examination can be requested by various entities, such as:
These entities usually request an IME in the context of a legal dispute, especially where liability is an issue.
IMEs are performed by licensed medical doctors or healthcare professionals experts in a specific field of medicine. The kind of medical consultant that will handle an IME will depend on the individual’s injuries and the purpose of the exam.
For example, a forensic psychiatrist will be the one to conduct an IME when it comes to determining a plaintiff or defendant’s medical conditions. On the other hand, IMEs concerning scars and disfigurement due to a work-related accident may be performed by a plastic surgeon.
However, not every medical doctor is qualified to perform an IME. Besides a medical license and board certifications, a physician should also have vast knowledge and experience in their respective practice areas or medical discipline.
A plastic surgery Independent Medical Examination occurs when a plastic surgeon examines a patient to provide an objective medical opinion that’s relevant in a medical-legal setting. A plastic surgeon, usually a consultant, will perform the evaluation to determine or answer a question regarding the patient’s health.
Doctors conducting an IME are not responsible for the patient’s long-term healthcare, nor are they bound to uphold doctor-patient confidentiality privilege. Importantly, the doctor must not have previously treated the patient, hence the examination being ‘independent.’
An Independent Medical Examination (IME) may be requested for several reasons and by several different parties. They are most often asked by insurance carriers, attorneys, and employers but may also be requested by the patient or the patient’s attorney.
The intended purpose of an IME is usually to answer a question, such as the cause of the condition or injury, if the patient has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), or if previous medical treatment was reasonable and appropriate.
Typically, an independent medical examiner is consulted to provide relevant medical information or settle disagreements during the following scenarios:
-workplace injuries resulting in temporary or permanent scarring and disfigurement allow the aggrieved employee to file a workers’ compensation claim. The employer may then request a plastic surgeon to perform an IME to confirm the individual’s injuries, medical treatments (e.g., if there’s a need for reconstructive surgery), or reimbursement amount.
-a patient may file for a personal injury claim or lawsuit for malpractice in cosmetic surgeries or an accident that resulted in injuries that may require plastic surgery. The at-fault party’s insurance company may request an IME to double-check the compensation claim of the patient.
-the disability claimant may require reconstructive surgery after an accident so the affected body part can become functional again. As a result, the insurance company will need to request an IME to evaluate whether to pay the benefits sought by the claimant.
-seeking an occupational or environmental hazard claim requires the patient to undergo an independent medical examination by the company or insurance carrier.
-when a victim suffered an accident or injury where an organization or entity is liable, the victim may be able to seek a compensation claim—for example, dog bites or an accident caused by someone’s property.
A plastic surgery independent medical examination aims to give both parties (defendant and plaintiff or claimant) a clear and complete picture of the patient’s medical condition. To do so, the examiner must conduct a physical examination to assess your injuries and an interview.
Here’s a general rundown on what might occur during a client or patient’s medical evaluation:
The plastic surgeon will then create a report and provide their unbiased opinion on one or more of the following: the patient’s diagnosis, prognosis, cause of injury, future treatments, time off work needed, permanent or temporary impairment, and work capacity.
When it comes to Independent Medical Examinations, it is crucial for the medical examiner to remain ‘independent’ and provide an objective, non-biased medical opinion. For this reason, ethics are critical.
Even though the IME is being ordered by a party with a vested interest in the answers, the doctor must remain impartial to the desires of that party and provide an opinion based on objective medical evidence. Read more about the importance of ethics.
In Florida, employers and workers’ compensation carriers are only required to cover the cost of employees’ medical treatment if the major contributing cause is work-related. For this reason, many Independent Medical Evaluations are requested to determine liability.
In the world of plastic surgery, a plastic surgeon may be asked if the scar on a patient is likely the result of a workplace accident (e.g., a dog bite on a postal worker). They may also be asked to estimate the cost to return the patient to their pre-accident condition – or to assess if the patient has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
Read more about Dr. Zaydon in his role as a Workers’ Compensation Plastic Surgeon.
At first, it’s normal to feel uneasy that you may need to divulge confidential information regarding your health to a new doctor. It may feel a bit intrusive once conducts their assessment. However, you should remember that an IME only aims to help your case and aid you in proving your injuries and medical needs to the opposing party.
Be courteous and cooperative and maintain a positive attitude as much as possible to make the best out of the experience. You should also understand that the examiner is not your treating doctor; therefore, they will remain impartial and their report confidential.
An IME plastic surgery time may take hours or a whole day, depending on your specific case. It’s best to prepare by canceling any schedules for the day or taking time off from work. You may also bring snacks for your breaks or a family member to accompany you.
Dr. Zaydon is an experienced provider of plastic surgery Independent Medical Examinations. As a Board Certified plastic surgeon and a Plastic Surgery Expert Medical Advisor, Dr. Zaydon has the ideal qualifications to provide high-quality and objective IMEs.
To order an Independent Medical Evaluation, please Contact Us. Besides IMEs, Dr. Zaydon also provides his services in other medico-legal disciplines concerning plastic surgery. This includes the following:
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.