Independent Medical Examination
One of the most common tactics employed by the insurance companies is called an Independent Medical Examination or “IME”. An IME is a medical examination that is conducted by a physician that is selected by the insurance company on a patient whose treatment the insurance company has been billed for. The No Fault law provides:
(7) MENTAL AND PHYSICAL EXAMINATION OF INJURED PERSON; REPORTS.—
(a) Whenever the mental or physical condition of an injured person covered by personal injury protection is material to any claim that has been or may be made for past or future personal injury protection insurance benefits, such person shall, upon the request of an insurer, submit to mental or physical examination by a physician or physicians. The costs of any examinations requested by an insurer shall be borne entirely by the insurer. Such examination shall be conducted within the municipality where the insured is receiving treatment, or in a location reasonably accessible to the insured, which, for purposes of this paragraph, means any location within the municipality in which the insured resides, or any location within 10 miles by road of the insured’s residence, provided such location is within the county in which the insured resides. If the examination is to be conducted in a location reasonably accessible to the insured, and if there is no qualified physician to conduct the examination in a location reasonably accessible to the insured, such examination shall be conducted in an area of the closest proximity to the insured’s residence. Personal protection insurers are authorized to include reasonable provisions in personal injury protection insurance policies for mental and physical examination of those claiming personal injury protection insurance benefits. An insurer may not withdraw payment of a treating physician without the consent of the injured person covered by the personal injury protection, unless the insurer first obtains a valid report by a Florida physician licensed under the same chapter as the treating physician whose treatment authorization is sought to be withdrawn, stating that treatment was not reasonable, related, or necessary. A valid report is one that is prepared and signed by the physician examining the injured person or reviewing the treatment records of the injured person and is factually supported by the examination and treatment records if reviewed and that has not been modified by anyone other than the physician. The physician preparing the report must be in active practice, unless the physician is physically disabled. Active practice means that during the 3 years immediately preceding the date of the physical examination or review of the treatment records the physician must have devoted professional time to the active clinical practice of evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment of medical conditions or to the instruction of students in an accredited health professional school or accredited residency program or a clinical research program that is affiliated with an accredited health professional school or teaching hospital or accredited residency program. The physician preparing a report at the request of an insurer and physicians rendering expert opinions on behalf of persons claiming medical benefits for personal injury protection, or on behalf of an insured through an attorney or another entity, shall maintain, for at least 3 years, copies of all examination reports as medical records and shall maintain, for at least 3 years, records of all payments for the examinations and reports. Neither an insurer nor any person acting at the direction of or on behalf of an insurer may materially change an opinion in a report prepared under this paragraph or direct the physician preparing the report to change such opinion. The denial of a payment as the result of such a changed opinion constitutes a material misrepresentation under s.626.9541(1)(i)2.; however, this provision does not preclude the insurer from calling to the attention of the physician errors of fact in the report based upon information in the claim file.
(b) If requested by the person examined, a party causing an examination to be made shall deliver to him or her a copy of every written report concerning the examination rendered by an examining physician, at least one of which reports must set out the examining physician’s findings and conclusions in detail. After such request and delivery, the party causing the examination to be made is entitled, upon request, to receive from the person examined every written report available to him or her or his or her representative concerning any examination, previously or thereafter made, of the same mental or physical condition. By requesting and obtaining a report of the examination so ordered, or by taking the deposition of the examiner, the person examined waives any privilege he or she may have, in relation to the claim for benefits, regarding the testimony of every other person who has examined, or may thereafter examine, him or her in respect to the same mental or physical condition. If a person unreasonably refuses to submit to or fails to appear at an examination, the personal injury protection carrier is no longer liable for subsequent personal injury protection benefits. An insured’s refusal to submit to or failure to appear at two examinations raises a rebuttable presumption that the insured’s refusal or failure was unreasonable.
Insurance companies carefully select the IME physician to increase the chances that the report provided by the examination will allow the insurance company to “cut-off” or deny future reimbursement for treatment. Almost all IMEs result in a “cut-off” that leaves the patient’s treating physicians with unpaid medical bills that are often substantial.