What is a compulsory medical examination (CME)?
A Compulsory Medical Examination (CME) is one of many tools insurance companies use in an attempt to deny your claim. Previously called an Independent Medical Exam (IME), the term was renamed because there is nothing independent about the exam. CMEs are often involved in personal injury cases and they can present a very real threat to your case, no matter how legitimate. If your insurance company requires a CME, make sure you discuss it with your personal injury lawyer to understand what you should expect and how to prepare.
How Does a CME Work?
When you make a personal injury claim, the insurance company may require you to submit to a Compulsory Medical Exam. This exam involves the insurer sending you to a doctor of their choosing whom they pay for an exam to confirm your medical condition. If your own insurance company requests a CME before trial, it’s referred to as a “first-party CME.” If the CME doctor says that you are uninjured and healthy, the insurance company can cut off your benefits and deny your claim.
Once you file a lawsuit, your own insurance provider or the defendant’s insurance company may pay to have you complete a CME so a doctor on their payroll can testify at court that you are uninjured or your injuries are not related to the accident. This is referred to as a “third-party CME.” Once you file a lawsuit, the defense can compel you to see a doctor for any specialty that is currently treating you, such as an orthopedic specialist or a neurologist.
What You Need to Know
If the insurance carrier has scheduled you for a CME, it’s vital that you know what to expect. The doctor involved in this exam is not independent and the details of the exam are not private. The physician’s purpose is to decrease or even eliminate the insurance company’s liability to pay for your injuries by reducing the severity of your injuries or finding another cause for your injuries, such as a pre-existing condition.
Even though the physician hired by the insurance company may be caring and honest, they have likely been told to watch for information that can help the defense, such as complaints that do not match your injury. They may also interrogate you about the facts of your injury. In some cases, the defense has provided the physician with investigative reports and surveillance video of you.
Preparing for Your CME
The best way to get through a Compulsory Medical Examination is to be prepared ahead of time. Experienced personal injury attorneys can help you prepare by going over the types of questions the doctor will likely ask and what you should do before you walk in the door.
Because the CME physician is not impartial, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your own doctor on the same day as your CME appointment. This way, you will have medical records from your doctor on the same day that may contradict any inaccurate or false findings from the CME report. You may also request that your physician write a letter outlining his or her opinions about your injuries to present to the CME physician during your exam.
Your personal injury lawyer will likely advise that you remain truthful, cooperative, and polite during your appointment. Before the visit, review your own medical history and consider the ways in which your accident has impacted your life. Be prepared to discuss these details, including whether you suffer from limited movement, pain, or have trouble performing certain activities.
Remember that the doctor has been hired by the defense or otherwise works for the insurance company. Always be honest, but do not elaborate unnecessarily as even small errors you make can be used against you in court. The physician should not ask questions about the cause of your accident (or liability-related topics) or any irrelevant questions about your personal habits or past health, as this information has nothing to do with your injury and could be used by the defense to attack your credibility or shift blame for the accident. Instead, questions should focus on your injuries and their cause.
Never walk into a CME unprepared. Knowledgeable personal injury attorneys can help you prepare for your CME to avoid damaging your case.