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What is an independent medical exam (IME)?

An injured employee who has claimed workers’ compensation after an injury is required by law to submit to an independent medical exam if requested to do so by the employer or the employer’s insurance company. Independent medical exams are authorized by the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. An injured employee who refuses to submit to an IME if requested may lose his or her workers’ compensation benefits or have them suspended.

If the insurance company requests an IME, it may be a signal that the insurer is preparing to dispute some issue in your workers’ compensation case, such as the need for surgery, for example. If your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance administrator has asked you to have an IME, you may want to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney about your rights. An experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can discuss how best to respond to a request for an independent medical exam.

The independent exam must be conducted at a reasonable time and place by a doctor licensed to practice in North Carolina. As an injured employee, you have a right to have present during the IME your own doctor, chosen and paid for by you.

If a doctor conducts a physical examination of the injured worker as part of the independent exam, the employer is required to provide a copy of the doctor’s report to the injured worker within 10 business days of the employer receiving the report. The report should be provided along with all documents and written communications pertaining to the employee.

North Carolina law provides the employee some rights regarding IMEs. If you have been released from medical treatment and are still experiencing pain, you may seek an independent medical exam to determine whether other treatment is needed. You should not have to live in chronic pain due to a work-related injury. But the insurance company may resist your request for additional medical treatment. You may need the assistance of a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer to apply to the Industrial Commission for approval of your request for an independent medical examination.

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