Whether we like it or not, the insurance company does have some rights under Illinois workers’ compensation law. :)
One of those rights is to send you to a doctor of their choosing. This is known as an independent medical exam (IME) with the word “independent” often seeming like it’s a joke. Many of these IME doctors have big time relationships with the insurance companies who use them over and over and for some they can make well in to the six figures just by agreeing to see an injured worker for five minutes and write a report. Right now someone reading this is probably thinking, “Five minutes! My exam lasted 45 seconds!”
Be this as it may, the IME is their right and it’s very common for your doctor, who has examined you multiple times and participates in your recovery, to have you authorized off work. Then the IME comes in and says you are fine and the insurance company cuts off your benefits right away.
This puts you in a tough spot. If your doctor says you shouldn’t lift anything or you risk a terrible re-injury, if you listen to them you will be without pay for now. If you go back to work, you’ll get paid, but you can really screw up your health.
As lawyers, this is our time to get your case in order and get you in front of an Arbitrator so a truly neutral person can decide your fate. This often comes down to which doctor is more credible. The good news is that usually a good treating doctor will be more respected than an obvious hired gun. The bad news is that it does usually take a couple of months to get in for a trial and then a couple more to get a decision. So if you are waiting it out, you’ll probably be without money or health care for a while.
The alternative is to try and go back to work. If you give it a sincere effort and have pain, you should leave work immediately and go back to your doctor. That could potentially be a new case and in the least it’s a good counter to the IME doctor. It’s key to be sincere though because if you don’t try they’ll likely have a witness against you which will hurt your credibility at trial.
There’s no right answer as to what to do as every case and injury is different. If you risk being paralyzed by going back to work then obviously you don’t do it. Most other injuries need to be looked at on a case by case basis.
So if you are reading this and thinking, “Mike, you haven’t really answered the question,” I get that can be frustrating. The point is that you have to look at every claim based on the unique facts of what happened to you and what your life situation is. Are you about to lose your house? I’d probably tell you to go back to work and see how it goes. Do you have your own insurance? Sometimes it’s most important to just get the medical care you need and have your insurance get reimbursed by work comp when we win the trial.
For you, the key is to have an advocate in your corner who will care about what’s best for you and work to reach that result. It’s definitely not a one sized fits all approach and if I’m being honest, the truth is that even a bogus IME can harm your life. It’s done to limit their exposure and create some leverage. It is their right to have an IME. Do not go to one of those exams without talking to a knowledgeable lawyer first who can help you prepare for it.
For more information about IMEs or anything related to Illinois workers’ compensation, feel free to contact us at (312) 346-5578 or online via our contact form. We are a statewide network of experienced, straightforward attorneys who are here to help.