Probably once a month I’ll get a call from an injured worker who has a clearly compensable case and has been getting medical treatment that has been approved by the insurance company. So what’s the problem? They were sent for an “independent” medical examination (IME) and even though their treating doctor says they need to stay off work and continue medical care, the IME doctor, who saw them for five minutes, says they are fine.
In 85% of cases I’m able to guess who the IME doctor is based on the type of injury the worker has. These docs are hired guns and fortunately their bad reputation is known. It might delay your case a bit, but if you have to go to trial, every Arbitrator knows that these are hired guns and don’t usually give their opinions much weight.
Credibility is key in any Illinois work injury case. Your credibility is most important. If you are shown to be a liar or change up your story, you’ll likely lose. If the IME doctor is a hack, it won’t help the defense case.
It’s also important to make sure that your treating doctor is credible because if they aren’t then you could lose too. This happened in a recent case that went against an injured worker who claimed carpal tunnel syndrome.
The worker’s attorney presented a statement from her doctor that said the carpal tunnel was due to typing. The problem was that this doctor only saw the worker twice and testified that carpal tunnel couldn’t come from any other way but repetitive trauma. That’s simply not true as it can also be caused by diabetes, pregnancy, obesity and other factors. By not acknowledging this, the treating doctor looked like he didn’t know what he was talking about so the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission sided with the IME doctor.
This all probably sounds confusing or scary. So the question is, how do you prevent yourself from losing a case that should be won like this one? The answer is that you need to ask your attorney what your treating doctor’s reputation is. If they are known for always treating injured workers and saying that the workers’ problems are work related then it’s not a good sign. You don’t want a hired gun in your corner either. If you have one, the Arbitrator is going to have a reason built in to deny your case.
This is all a part of making sure that you look out for you. It’s important that you ask questions like this to make sure you aren’t doing anything to unintentionally screw up your case. And if your lawyer insists on you treating with a certain doctor that they like to work with, ask about their reputation and look up their facility. If it’s not filled with many doctors, it might be a bad sign. If your attorney won’t help you unless you see this specific doctor then it’s definitely a bad sign.
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