By Lisa Lane, Esq.
The common myth among claimants is that IME doctors say whatever they are hired to say. A claimant’s attorney recently said to the WCJ at a mediation I had last week that it did not matter what “my doctor” had said, because he was paid to say that the claimant had fully recovered. I have yet to meet a physician who is willing to accept my diagnoses.
The suggestion that the physicians who perform IMEs are “hired guns” is misplaced. I will admit when I first started practicing, there were some IME physicians who I deposed who had a unique perspective on work injuries. One thought that Vitamin C was a cure-all. I am not quite sure what another one really had to say, as his testimony was difficult to decipher as he spoke as if he had a mouth full of marbles. Some of those early IME physicians were quick to deem fusion patients “fully recovered.”
However, the IME physicians today are a much different breed. Nearly all are very well-credentialed. Most devote 90% of their time to active practices versus IMEs. Additionally, in my experience, all will “call it as they see it.” I could wallpaper my office with IME results that have not gone in my client’s favor. Thus, the argument that these “hired guns” will “say whatever we want” falls short. If that were not persuasive enough evidence, most “IME doctors” whom I have used for IMEs, I have also seen sitting across the table supporting their patients in other cases.
These are impressive physicians and witnesses. I have been so impressed by many over the years. These are physicians that I have trusted and would trust for those closest to me. A local orthopedic surgeon who has been mislabeled as “just an IME doctor” was who I trusted to perform hip surgery on my mother. My oldest son’s days of football sent me running to another “Company Doctor” orthopedic surgeon for knee treatment and a Pittsburgh neurologist for evaluation. I couldn’t even get an early Affidavit of Recovery on my own kid, let alone an injured worker. This is simply not how it works.
The suggestion that IME physicians should be viewed skeptically based upon the IMEs they perform is an argument that should no longer exist. The physicians who perform IMEs are the same doctors whom I trust to treat those closest to me. They are not “company doctors” whose income is derived solely as mouthpieces to the insurance community, as claimant’s attorneys would like to have everyone believe. My personal assessment is that the community of IME physicians in Western Pennsylvania is comprised of some of the area’s best physicians. That should carry more weight when determining their credibility than the fact that they only performed one examination on the claimant in question.