An independent medical examination, or IME, is the insurance company's opportunity to perform a disability evaluation. It is important to remember that this is not medical treatment and that these IMEs are by no means neutral or unbiased. The reports from these examinations are often used by the insurance company to justify a termination or reduction of your benefits. An IME should be viewed as the insurance company's opportunity to obtain evidence.
Be wary any time the insurance company asks you to sign a document. Many times, the insurance company is not up front about the true purpose of the document, or the effect that document may have on your legal rights. In particular, be cautious when dealing with blanket medical authorizations, which may give the insurance company complete access to any and all of your medical records, some of which may contain sensitive information of you and have nothing to do with your work-related injury. There are many other forms which if signed could drastically affect your entitlement to future benefits.
Sometimes, if you are not represented by a lawyer (or if the insurance company is unaware that you are represented) an adjuster may attempt to obtain a recorded statement from you. Often, such interviews venture into topics like immigration status, workers' compensation or personal injury claims history and unrelated personal matters. Unfortunately, if an adjuster is skeptical, a recorded interview can attempt to identify discrepancies upon which a denial may be based. Recorded interviews must be approached with extreme caution.
Keep in mind that while surveillance is creepy, and an invasion of your privacy, it is not illegal. Most often, surveillance is done by a private investigator retained by the insurance company or employer. It is extremely common for the insurance company to use the product of a surveillance investigation to allege that the employee has the physical capability to do some work as is demonstrated by activity captured on videotape. Oftentimes, an investigator will speak with your neighbors, your coworkers, or even your family and friends in an attempt to gather damaging information, whether accurate or not.
Insurance companies, and the private investigators they hire, have excellent technology to research computer –accessible databases including social media to snoop on injured workers. What is a public record, or what an injured worker makes public, is fair game for the insurance company to view. Any information you put on Facebook, or other social media websites, should be considered public for purposes of surveillance and investigation. Do not put information, including photographs, on social media that may be embarrassing or will require explanation, in light of your work – related injury. Assume that every bit of information you post on social media is open to the general public and a private investigator.