I got that very reasonable question from a doctor of all people.  They didn’t have a case, but instead were trying to help out a friend.  This doctor is in another state and apparently there it’s illegal to video-tape the “Independent” medical exam.  It’s not illegal in that state to bring another doctor with you to the exam.
Anyway, he wanted to know what his friend can and can’t do in Illinois. His friend believes that he is likely being sent to a hired gun who will try to screw him over in return for getting more referrals from the insurance company.
There are no clear cut laws on this issue other than that it’s usually at the discretion of the doctor.  I don’t know of any doctor that wants to be video-taped, mostly out of unfounded fear of being sued.  I can tell you that I don’t believe this is a good idea, even when the IME doctor is a hack.  The hackiest of doctors can still write an intelligent sounding report.  Your attempts at showing what really happened will usually do nothing more than make them defensive and turn against you.  In my experience, Arbitrators at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission also frown upon this as well.
I think it’s less controversial to bring your spouse or child or friend in to the room.  Some doctors might not allow it, but if you are really uncomfortable being alone in there, it in my opinion is worth having a conversation about with the Arbitrator.  Some might say you should be allowed, others won’t agree.  It’s going to take that one case where it goes all the way to the Appellate Court to clarify what should and shouldn’t be allowed.
In the bigger picture, everyone is worried, and rightfully so, that the IME doctor won’t be honest in their evaluation.  Imagine that you have pain radiating down your legs from your back and can’t sleep yet some doctor that sees you for two minutes says you are 100% fine and ok to go back to your job on a construction crew.
So people want to record what really happened in the exam and/or bring a friend that can testify as to how short it was.
This evidence can be helpful.  But a lot of times these doctors base their reports on their review of your medical records and seeing you doesn’t have much to do with how they form an opinion.  It’s pathetic, but true.
IME’s are money making machines for these doctors.  Many of them earn an extra six figures from doing them.  I do believe that most docs are honest, but some want to keep that gravy train going.
If there is any silver lining for you, it should be two things: 1. A credible treating doctor will way more often than not sway an Arbitrator. 2.  Insurance companies, lawyers and Arbitrators all know who the real hired guns are and who will tell you what they really think even if it goes against the insurance company that is paying them.  So while your benefits might get delayed, ultimately you will almost always prevail at trial if you have a good doctor and lawyer in your corner.
As far as what to do at an IME, you should always talk with a lawyer first.  But I do recommend that you be as pleasant and honest as you can be.  Honesty is of course always the best policy.  But believe it or not, there are a bunch of IME doctors that will put you through tests to determine how honest you are being about your pain and abilities without you even knowing it.


By Michael Helfand