Generally speaking, and as for example outlined in the Independent Medical Examiner – IME – Sevices Standards, (in Victoria) a doctor hired to examine a patient/injured worker on behalf of a workcover insurance company ((or employer), does not establish a (standard) doctor-patient relationship. However, we believe that there are times when at the very least, a limited duty to the injured worker (patient) may well exist in some circumstances! And that the IME in question could potentially be sued for liability (i.e. malpractice)!
The workcover insurance company (who is defending your workcover claim) has a right to have a doctor (an independent medical examiner) of its own choice examine the injured worker. The logic of this general rule cannot be questioned. However the manner in which so-called “independent medical examinations” (IMEs) are carried out is often fraught with controversy, and it’s important that you know that you can refuse to see a certain IME in certain circumstances!
Although 5 years ago, it is worth re-publishing that The Hon. A. Bressington stated she had been approached by a number of constituents on WorkCover, who have been required by their case manager to appear before Dr Doron Samuell, a fly-in “independent medical examiner” from New South Wales. Each has alleged that the behaviour of Dr Samuell was intimidating and bullying, that he inappropriately filmed meetings without seeking their permission, that there was yelling and finger-pointing, and that he behaved in a threatening manner towards the injured workers.
WorkSafe Victoria (WorkSafe) regularly “review the quality” of Reports obtained from Independent Medical Examiners (IMEs) through what is called the Quality Assurance Program (QAP). Although theoretically a “reassuring” program, don’t be fooled!
We believe that one of the most difficult problems with the current workcover Independent Examination system is that there is usually no way for an injured worker to know the full history of the IME doctor who is performing the examination. For example, if a certain IME doctor has been the subject of multiple complaints, the injured worker has (generally) no way to know about these previous complaints. This is also the reason why we started our IME list.
A journalist working for a well-known TV Channel is working on a story and came across our site. S/he is looking for teachers that have been assessed by two well known (notorious) IME psychiatrists.
Many IME Psychiatrists, even those who testify for workcover insurers avoid diagnosing psychological / psychiatric conditions related to injured workers’ trauma. They generally do this by deliberately avoiding any tests that were designed to assess the injured worker’s mental condition in question. Is it any wonder the IME finds no evidence of for example, PTSD or major depression when s/he doesn’t even test for it?
Let’s just imagine that we are a doctor or specialist and that we’ve accepted to treat an injured worker.Who is really making the medical/surgical decisions about our injured workers? Shouldn’t the workcover insurers at least share the liability or at least bear the responsibility of their own actions or lack thereof?
This article is dedicated to injured worker “Kevin”, who has (had) the courage to confront a(n alleged) grossly biased IME in court. Never forget that the IME (for example an orthopedic surgeon) who has been hired by your workcover insurer to do an “independent” medical examination of you is not your friend. Most are only hired to do a specific job and that is to minimise the damage aspects of your workcover case. Some IMEs are pretty honest and their assessments, reports and even Court testimony is straightforward. BUT there are some IME doctors who have absolutely no moral. They will say whatever they need to in order to advance their client’s (the workcover insurer) cause and goal.
Back to the topic of workcover insurer-chosen IME doctors, which remain an ongoing problem for many injured victims. Many of these so called independent medical examination (IME) doctors are in the IME business because they are looking for another way to add to their income by doing these exams. It is important to understand that money, and the promise of future income
can often will influence those IME opinions.