This past weekend (November 7-9, 2014), I spoke twice at a conference of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Orthopedic doctors from various states attending the particular sessions I taught were mostly older, and many were hired by industrial insurance adjusters to do independent medical exams on claims where attorneys were involved. I had just blasted so-called IME’s in Nevada in my last blog post, so it was interesting that I now had to face a group of doctors for two hours each day to lecture and answer their questions about how a claimant’s’ attorney analyzes work comp medical issues. I hope it was a learning experience for the doctors. I know that I learned a lot and think I will be a better claimants’ attorney having this opportunity to interact with these doctors.
My first impression of this group of doctors was that their opinion of claimants’ attorneys was very negative. Many of them truly thought I would agree to represent someone who had no medical evidence to support an injury claim so long as I thought I could earn a fee. Others thought that the longer I was able to keep an injured worker off work, the more money I made.
Former defense attorney, David DePaulo, Esq., co-taught both seasons with me. He now runs www.workcompcentral.com, a website with a wealth of information on all states’ and federal work comp systems. He is an engaging and highly knowledgeable speaker. I enjoyed working with him.
One of the IME doctors in the audience brought up that they only see the difficult cases where the adjuster seriously questions the claim or treatment recommendations such that the adjuster is willing to pay for an IME. He thought that I may only see IME reports that support the insurer’s position because the clear-cut claims aren’t scheduled for expensive IME’s, which include an in-depth record review and usually an exam of the claimant. While I agreed that obvious cases aren’t usually scheduled for IME’s by insurers, there was still bias in favor of the insurer when the insurer keeps choosing the same IME doctors for so-called independent exams. Even if the doctor approaches the case with an open mind, they know that they are expected by the adjuster who hires them to find a reason to stop benefits or to limit medical care.
I liked that this particular group of doctors wanted to hear about how they are perceived and how they can be more impartial and deliver solid medical opinions on difficult issues. I hope they came away with a better understanding that good workers’ compensation attorneys do much more than get money compensation for their clients. Secondly, I hope they keep in mind when they work on complex medical-legal issues,that ultimately any workers’ compensation system is about a real person with an injury or illness.