Defense attorneys for the railroads and insurance companies call it an "IME" for Independent Medical Exam. But, it is not! "IMEs" -- those words get most plaintiffs' lawyers hopping mad.
You have to understand that IMEs are not performed by independent physicians for garnering a second opinion. IMEs are performed for the sole purpose of giving the "hired gun" defense attorney for the railroad or insurance company a chance to find some support for a legal defense to your FELA claim or, in the case of an insurance company, to deny your claim.
This is why I never call such exams IMEs, and in fact, I would never ask for an IME to be given to you. These exams should be called Defense Medical Exams (DMEs).
DMEs: IN ENEMY TERRITORY
An injured railroader wants to believe that every doctor that sees him is there to help him recover from his work injury. The injured person wants to believe that he can trust not only his doctor but the physician who conducts the DME. Similar mistakes are made when an injured railroader trusts the claim agent who is taking his statement or the trainmaster "helping" the injured worker fill out the injury report.
It is critical to remember that the interests of the claim agent, the trainmaster and the DME physician are opposite to yours. Their interests are in protecting the railroad's interest and their jobs. Their job responsibilities require them to undercut your FELA claim.
The interests of the claim agent are clear. The less money paid on a settlement, the more successful the claim agent and the railroad will be at the end of the year.
The physicians who perform DMEs also have "pocket book interests", but they have other motives, too. Many DME doctors first perform a review of all the medical records of a person. After this review, the railroad or insurance company asks for their opinions in the case. The opinion formulated by the DME doctor after the review of the medical records is more often than not the VERY opinion that needs to be reinforced by the physical examination of the client. It is a case of the medical theory leading the facts.
By way of example, the DME doctor offers his opinion to the railroad after a review of the records that the injured railroader can be suffering from a lower lumbar strain and not a herniated disc. Do you think the DME doctor is going to get any more business from the railroad if after a physical exam he confirms that the injured railroader has a herniated disc?
One of the most common conclusions from a DME is that you are a malingerer, or that you have exaggerated your symptoms. If your injuries cannot be denied, the defense will be that while you may be disabled and honest, you have created a fixation on your injuries that is magnifying your problem. Whatever can be done during the exam to portray you in an unfavorable light will be done in order to fit you into one of these classifications.
Further, generally speaking, the selected doctor does not treat railroad employees, but is a highly paid "expert witness" for the railroad. The DME doctor "treats" numerous injured employees for evaluation purposes only. The sole goal for the railroad from the examination is to obtain a favorable medical opinion to use against the injured worker by "forcing" him back to work to reduce lost wages damages.
Be forewarned – when you are sitting in the doctor's office for a DME you might as well be sitting in the defense attorney's office helping him defend the railroad.
As experienced FELA lawyers for injured railroad workers, Hoey & Farina will work hard to protect your rights and help you defend against the railroad.