New IME Guideline in Workers Compensation Cases?

In our practice handling serious car accident cases, we regularly spar with insurance companies over the conditions for “independent” medical exams where an insurance company hires a doctor – usually a doctor they have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to over the years – to testify for them. Some of these doctors take incredibly bizarre and illogical paths to concluding that the plaintiff was not really hurt or, if the injuries are extreme, that the plaintiff has made a full recovery or that the injuries were not caused by the accident. If you are a lawyer regularly handling serious car accident cases, you know what I’m talking about. If you are not, please trust me: this is a ridiculous racket that gives justice a black eye.

It looks like the insurance companies in Maryland workers’ compensation cases want to end run any battles over anything and everything related to independent medical exams. They have proposed a new Code of Maryland Regulation (COMAR), regulation 14.09.01.20, that would pretty much give defense lawyers carte blanche to both schedule and compel plaintiffs claimants IMEs at will with potential stiff penalties for the failure to appear.

Take a look at these regulations. They begin with an insult. “Either party may schedule an independent medical examination.” Gee, thanks for the equanimity but when does the plaintiff schedule an IME in a workers’ compensation case?

It goes on from there. The regulations are vague, which I think is deliberate. It does not detail with any specificity what is required of the injured worker when attending the “independent” medical examination and it imposes draconian penalties for missed IMEs, without setting for what would constitute good cause. In short, this proposed regulation is a train wreck.

Do you agree? Comments may be sent to Amy S. Lackington, Administrator, Workers’ Compensation Commission, 10 E. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, or call 410-864-5300, or email to alackington@wcc.state.md.us , or fax to 410-864-5301. Comments will be accepted through June 4, 2012. Final action on the proposal will be considered by the Workers’ Compensation Commission during a public meeting to be held on June 28, 2012, at 10 E. Baltimore Street office.
Our firm rarely handles workers’ compensation cases. We handle them usually as a courtesy for our third party injury cases. But I think this regulation impacts our car and truck accident practice because it puts the terms and conditions of independent medical exams on a very slippery slope.

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