The most common complaint I receive from my New York Workers’ Compensation clients is that they are improperly examined by IME’s.
What is an IME?
An IME or “Independent Medical Examiner” is a doctor hired by the insurance company for the purpose of checking on, and limiting, the injured worker’s claim against the insurance company.
IME’s are certainly NOT “independent”. The word “independent” is a complete misnomer.
Here are some common things I hear from my clients after seeing an IME:
- He didn’t touch me.
- He examined me for only three minutes.
- She asked me inappropriate questions.
- He didn’t have my records.
- She didn’t know anything about my case.
- He was nasty and rude.
- His office was a mess and he seemed unprofessional.
- His medical report contains many, many errors.
Recently, a client called to tell me that she had been to an IME examination for her Workers’ Comp case involving a shoulder injury. The doctor had her sit down in a chair and asked her a few questions. He then asked her to raise her arms above her head and then asked her to put her arms behind her head as far as they would go.
Those two requests comprised his ENTIRE EXAM.
When the medical report came in from this doctor, he stated in his report that the injured worker has “zero permanent injury.”
Meanwhile, my client says she still has trouble raising her injured arm all the way.
The IME never touched my client.
This stuff happens all the time. The best way for injured workers to protect themselves is to videotape their IME exams or to bring a witness.
In this case I intend to have my client TESTIFY regarding the fact that the IME never actually examined her.
This kind of bogus IME exam, unfortunately, happens all the time. Having an experienced Workers’ Comp attorney on your side can help injured workers fight the injustices that go on way too often, in the Workers’ Comp system.
In New York, injured workers have the absolute right to choose their own medical provider for their work-related injury. The only requirement is that the doctor or other health provider accept Workers’ Comp (WC) insurance. I regularly advise injured workers who come into my office the following:
* Don’t treat with a doctor your employer send you to. More often than not, the employer’s doctor does not have your best interests in mind.
*Choose a doctor you are comfortable with. If you see a doctor who you feel isn’t helping you, switch! You can switch doctors as often as you like, under WC.
* DO NOT SEE YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR IF YOU ARE INJURED AT WORK. FAMILY OR GENERAL DOCTORS ARE RARELY IF EVER FAMILIAR WITH THE WC SYSTEM… SEEING YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR CAN SCREW UP YOUR CASE!
*Instead, see a specialist. These include: Orthopedists, Physical Medicine and Rehab doctors, Neurologists, Chiropractors, and/or Pain Management Doctors. You can see more than one specialist at the same time!
*Since Workers’ Comp pays the doctor 100% of their bills, for as long as the treatment is allowed, see the very best specialist you can. Hospital clinics and walk-in clinics are also no-no’s for TREATMENT of a work-related injury!
*The Law Office of Morrin & Sands PLLC can help injured workers find the right doctor for their injury and their case!
Sometimes prospective clients come to my office and tell me that they were injured on the job. The problem, they tell me, is that aren’t sure when this happened. When I hear this, I usually need to ask them a series of questions, to find out more information. Perhaps this individual has what is known as an “occupational disease.” (We often abbreviate this to “OD”.)
Not all OD’s are what is commonly known as a disease. Some are truly injuries, but they all happened gradually over a period of time at work. Here’s some examples of fairly well-known or common occupational diseases:
A welder who develops bronchitis from breathing in welding fumes.
A computer operator who develops carpal tunnel syndrome from extensive keyboarding.
A machine operator who develops asthma from repeated chemical inhalation.
A nurse’s aide who develops back pain from continually transferring patients from bed to wheelchair and wheelchair to bed.
A jackhammer operator who develops hearing loss.
A sandblaster or sandhog who develops lung disease/silicosis.
These are just a few examples, but all of these are Workers’ Compensation cases.The law in New York says that you have two years to file a claim for an OD with the Workers’ Compensation Board. This is measured from date of diagnosis or when you knew or should have known that your condition is work-related, whichever is later.
Most OD’s are “controverted” by the employer and its Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier, meaning, you will have a fight on your hands to win the case. You will need a doctor to say that your condition was at least partially caused by the type of work you do.
Bottom line—if you think you have an occupational disease, consult an attorney experienced with these types of claims who can properly advise you of your rights. Occupational diseases are covered by the Workers’ Comp Law, and if you win your case, you are entitled to the same benefits as if you had been injured in an accident. OD cases are more difficult to prove, however, than routine work accident claims. That’s why it’s usually not a good idea to file these types of claims without getting sound legal advice first.
Most people think that if they get injured at work, telling their boss and then seeing their family doctor is all they have to do. Actually, it isn’t. Here’s a little advice about what to do when you get injured on the job:
1. File a written incident report and keep a copy for your records.
2. Ask your boss or your HR Department for the name and phone number of your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company (also called the “carrier.”)
3. Go for treatment with a Workers’ Compensation doctor who is a specialist – NOT your family doctor. Examples of doctors who you could see are orthopedists, neurologists, chiropractors or physical medicine and rehab doctors.
4. File a C-3 form with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. This step is required by law- yet most people don’t know about it and YOUR EMPLOYER WILL NOT TELL YOU ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT IS NOT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO DO SO! You can file a C-3 form online by going to the Board’s website at www.wcb.ny.gov. The law says you have two years from the accident or injury to file this form with New York State.
When filing for Workers’ Comp, keep in mind that you will be dealing with two completely separate entities: the carrier and the Workers’ Compensation Board. The carrier is your employer’s insurance company that is in business to make money and to pay as little as possible in benefits. The Board, on the other hand, is like a court. The Board, not the carrier, makes the final decisions in your case. Most carriers would like you to think that their decisions are final. However, any decision that a carrier makes about what treatment or surgery you are entitled to or how much money you get for your case can be challenged. You just have to know how. That’s where getting an experienced Workers’ Comp attorney comes into the picture.