Tampa Workers’ Compensation IME & EMA Attorney
If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, or if you are currently receiving temporary disability payments, you can expect that your employer’s insurance carrier will order you to undergo an Independent Medical Examination, or IME. The results of an IME can be used to limit what you receive from workers’ comp, including an early termination of your benefits before you are fully recovered or even an outright denial of your claim. An experienced Tampa workers’ compensation attorney can provide invaluable advice and representation throughout the workers’ compensation claims process, including before, during and after an IME. Learn more about IMEs and EMAs below, and contact Kobal Law for professional assistance with your Florida workers’ comp claim.
What is an IME?
According to Florida Statutes 440.13(5), an IME is supposed to be an objective evaluation of your medical condition, including the ways in which the condition impairs your work status. An IME can be requested by either the employer or the employee, or it can be ordered by the DWC or workers’ compensation judge. The party requesting the IME is the one who pays for the exam and any related testing. If the employee requests the IME and ultimately prevails in the case, the employer will pay for the IME as well.
The IME will consist of a physical examination along with an interview about the work you typically perform. The IME may consider issues such as the scope of your disability, whether the injury is compensable, what medical benefits are proper and whether workers’ comp is being overutilized.
The opinion of the independent medical examiner is supposed to be limited to the doctor’s area of expertise. Also, the party who selected the examiner is bound by the opinions of the examiner, but the other party can argue and challenge the doctor’s opinions. An exception is when the parties opt for a consensus IME and agree to both be bound by the physician’s opinions. Your workers’ comp lawyer can advise you on whether a consensus IME may be appropriate in your case.
If you are contacted by the employer’s workers’ comp carrier to schedule an IME, keep in mind that you are not seeing a doctor who will treat you or provide you with any follow-up care. Most likely the purpose of the IME is to lay the groundwork to deny your claim or cut off benefits. Be sure and contact a workers’ compensation attorney if you have been scheduled for an IME, but don’t miss your appointment; failing to appear can keep you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
What is an EMA?
EMA stands for Expert Medical Advisor. An EMA is a doctor with a current clear and active license from the Florida Department of Health who is also Board Certified in a specialty area appropriate to the particular case. When there is a disagreement about your condition among different treating physicians, between the treating physician and an IME, or between two IMEs, an EMA may be an appropriate step to resolve the dispute. An EMA is required if either party requests one or if two IMEs disagree. An EMA is optional when doctors disagree about issues such as the proper medical treatment or whether you are fit to return to work.
Under Florida Statutes 440.13(9), the opinion of an EMA is presumed to be correct. This presumption can be overcome, but it requires “clear and convincing” evidence to do so. Clear and convincing evidence is a high legal standard which requires additional effort and the skill of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to produce.
An EMA can be obtained by filing a Notice of Conflict, in which case the judge is required to appoint an EMA. The EMA examines and evaluates the employee, conducting both a physical exam and a review of the workers’ medical records. The EMA will provide an expert opinion in the form of a written report, deposition or live testimony to assist the judge in determining the matter at hand. An EMA is a very powerful tool that can be a critical step in your workers’ compensation case.
Help with IMEs and EMAs from Tampa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Jason Kobal
For help with issues related to an IME or EMA in your Florida workers’ compensation claim, contact Kobal Law at 813-873-2440 for a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced Tampa workers’ compensation attorney.