Workers’ compensation laws are meant to protect both employees and employers. People who are disabled or injured while at work are protected under workers’ compensation laws. Payment comes in the form of fixed, regular financial rewards to the worker to make up for wages and time lost at work.
Workers comp is also meant to reduce the number of cases that go to court which in turn, helps the employer avoid expensive litigation costs. If you have been injured at work, you can refer to these OSHA FAQs for general information about workers compensation claims.
But what role does your doctor play in your claim? Will their close association with your employer’s insurance company hinder your case?
IME Doctors Close Relationship with Insurers
After being injured at the workplace, you will have to choose a workers compensation doctor who will perform an independent medical exam or IME. This doctor may be different from the treating physician that you initially saw for your injuries and your company will likely provide an approved list of IME doctors that is compiled by their insurance company.
Ideally, this doctor will not only provide medical assistance but also document your injuries so that you get compensated fairly and for the appropriate length of time commensurate with your injuries. But unfortunately, that is not always what happens.
The workers’ compensation doctor is going to have the final word on what you can and cannot do at home and at work. For example, if you are required to lift heavy objects at work, the doctor will explain to your supervisor why the injury prevents you from lifting. If the injury is bad enough, they may try to get you several days or weeks off work. When there is disagreement about any of this, you may have to go to court and the doctor may be called on to testify against you.
Are IME Doctor Fees Preventing You from Getting a Fair Hearing?
This is where the controversy kicks in. The IME doctor is hired by your employer’s insurance company and owes you nothing, including a duty of care. These doctors are often retired medical professionals who don’t necessarily still practice or are not specialists in their field, but rather general practitioners looking to make some fast cash.
Simply put, it is well-known that they can be money-motivated and get paid handsomely to travel around to different places to examine Injured workers.
They are paid thousands of dollars per case by the insurance companies, especially if they testify against you in court. On average, they’re paid about $1,000 for your medical examination and can be paid upwards of $3,000 to go to court. This is a dangerous proposition because worker’s compensation doctors may testify that you have recovered when in actuality, you still need treatment or even surgery! They may insist that you can return to work when in fact, returning to work could be dangerous to your health.
Getting Legal Help
To successfully file a workers’ compensation claim, you will need effective representation. At-work injuries put people at odds with their employers and their employer’s insurance company. It can be a battle to the literal death and it is important that you don’t climb into the ring alone.
You need a lawyer that will take the gloves off and fight for your rights as a worker and a patient. Hiring an attorney that is familiar with workers compensation laws will go a long way toward making sure your claim is processed correctly and doesn’t wind up being denied.