What is an IME? (And Why They’re Needed)

Obtaining an IME at the right time will keep a workers comp claim on a steady path toward recovery and return to work.

By Carla Rodriguez | Sep. 18, 2023 | 5 min. read

What is an Independent Medical Examination (IME)?


An Independent Medical Examination (IME) is a comprehensive medical evaluation conducted by a neutral and independent medical professional. It is typically requested by insurance companies in cases where there is a need to assess a claimant’s medical condition, treatment, or disability. In this article we’ll explore instances when an IME is required, and why it is effective when done right.


Why are IMEs Required?


Now that we know what an IME is, let’s delve into the “why” behind its requirement. There are several reasons insurance companies request IMEs:


Verification of Medical Claims: IMEs serve as a tool to verify the accuracy of a claimant’s medical condition and treatment. It helps insurance companies confirm that the medical information provided aligns with the findings of an independent medical expert.

Unbiased Assessment: IMEs are conducted by independent medical professionals who have no prior relationship with the claimant. This impartiality ensures an unbiased evaluation, as the examiner doesn’t have a vested interest in the outcome of the claim – or at least isn’t supposed to.

Resolution of Disputes: In some cases, there may be disagreements between the claimant’s healthcare provider and the insurance company regarding the extent of the injury or disability. An IME can provide an objective assessment to help resolve such disputes.

Ensuring Fair Compensation: IMEs are also used to determine the appropriate level of compensation for a claimant. This helps ensure that policyholders receive fair and just compensation based on their actual medical condition.

Preventing Fraud: Unfortunately, insurance fraud exists, and IMEs are a tool to detect and prevent fraudulent claims. By verifying the legitimacy of a claimant’s medical condition, insurers can protect themselves and their honest policyholders


When Might There Be fraud?


IMEs are usually put to good use when the insurance company finds there are unusual treatment patterns.


Examples include:
  1. Lack of medical documentation to support the treatment plan
  2. Treatment appears excessive
  3. Extreme surgeries or unrelated treatments are prescribed
  4. Narcotics prescribed without a proper discontinuance plan

Another time IMEs are asked to step in is when the causality of an injury is being questioned. This can be if the insurance company believes your claim isn’t beyond the shadow of a doubt related to your incident.


Understanding the Causality Question


Causality simply means figuring out if the injury or condition is a result of an event or situation covered by the insurance policy. Imagine a scenario where a policyholder files a claim for an injury or medical condition. The insurance company receives the claim and is responsible for determining whether the injury or condition is indeed covered by the policy. This is where the causality question comes into play.


For example:

If someone has a car accident and claims they suffered a back injury, the insurance company needs to confirm that the accident caused the injury and that it’s not a pre-existing condition. If the claimant’s medical history shows they had herniated disc back surgery for a gym injury, they need to reassess whether these are related injuries not caused by the recent accident.


Why Causality Matters


Causality is a big deal in insurance because it directly affects whether a claim is valid and how much the insurance company might need to pay out. Here’s why it matters:

Fairness: Insurance companies want to be fair to their policyholders. If an injury or condition is indeed caused by a covered event, the policyholder should be compensated accordingly.

Detecting Fraud: Its not news that people try to make false claims to get money they don’t deserve. Investigating causality helps detect these fraudulent claims and prevents people from taking advantage of the system.

Policy Compliance: Insurance policies have specific terms and conditions. Determining causality ensures that the insurance company is only paying for what the policy covers.


The Role of the Independent Medical Examination (IME)


Now, let’s talk about why insurance companies often request an Independent Medical Examination when causality is in doubt:

Neutral Evaluation: IMEs are conducted by independent medical professionals who have no connection to the policyholder or the insurance company. They provide an impartial assessment of the claimant’s condition.

Expertise: IME doctors are experts in their fields. They can evaluate medical records, conduct exams, and offer opinions based on their knowledge and experience. They are highly regarded by workers comp judges so their assessments hold a lot of weight in court.

Objective Findings: The IME report determines whether the injury or condition is consistent with the event in question. It provides objective evidence that can support or challenge causality claims.


How an IME Works:


During an IME, the policyholder is examined by a neutral medical expert. These experts review medical records, conduct a physical examination, and may order additional tests if needed. They then provide a detailed report with their findings and opinions.



In the complex world of insurance, causality questions can be a sticking point. Independent Medical Examinations play a crucial role in resolving these questions fairly and objectively. They ensure that insurance claims are based on accurate assessments of causality, preventing fraud and ensuring policy compliance. Obtaining an IME at the right time will help keep a claim on a steady path toward recovery and return to work.