Is An Independent Medical Exam Required In An Iowa Workers’ Compensation Case?

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
September 10, 2020

In this article, we discuss independent medical examinations and the legal requirements for Iowa workers’ compensations claims and answer the following questions:


  • What is an independent medical exam?
  • Can my Iowa employer force me to receive an independent medical examination?
  • Can I request my own independent medical exam in an Iowa work comp case?
  • Does the independent medical exam affect my Iowa work comp award?
  • Should I consult an attorney before my independent medical examination?


Sometimes workers’ compensation claims are uncomplicated. Johnny is working at a construction site when a piece of machinery fails and his hand is mangled in the process. Multiple witnesses were around and can attest that Johnny did nothing wrong and the machinery is completely at fault. Johnny’s employer will have a hard time opposing a work comp claim from Johnny. But what about if Johnny suddenly begins complaining of back pain? Pain so bad that, according to Johnny, it impairs his ability to work safely and puts others in the area at risk. Johnny files a work comp claim and in the process, his employer—or possibly Johnny, depending on the situation— requests an independent medical exam. 


What Is An Independent Medical Exam?


An independent medical exam is meant to be free from any undue influence from the parties involved in the workers’ compensation case. Whether requested by the employer or the employee the physician performing the exam should have no prior ties to either party. The IME is not meant to create a doctor-patient relationship beyond the time the employee spends in the medical exam room. Independent medical examiners must be licensed to perform IMEs and have specialized training. The independent medical examiner exists to perform a specific set of tasks, including:


  • Evaluate the workers’ condition;
  • Give his or her professional opinion, including a diagnosis; and
  • Suggest a treatment plan and a possible return-to-work timeline.


The point of an independent medical exam is to give the judge presiding over the work comp case something to hang his or her hat on when going through all the evidence. Obviously, in some cases, the IME can be the deciding factor on whether the worker is denied or awarded restitution.


Can My Iowa Employer Force Me To Receive An Independent Medical Examination?


Your employer or your employer’s work comp insurance carrier can request you receive an IME. Under Iowa law, if you refuse to participate you acknowledge that your compensation is forfeit until the exam is completed. If the exam is requested by your employer all costs should be covered by them, including transportation to and from the exam, if necessary. It’s not uncommon for the insurance carrier to request an IME if they feel the employee is exaggerating.


Can I Request My Own Independent Medical Exam In An Iowa Work Comp Case?


Yes. According to worker’s compensation law in Iowa, employees have the right to seek an IME following their work-related injury. Examples of when an employee might seek an independent medical exam include:


  • The employer’s physician has given the employee the green light to return to work but the employee feels he or she is not ready.
  • The employee feels the company physician has incorrectly diagnosed his or her complaint or reported that it is less severe than the employee believes.
  • The employee wants an independent medical examiner present and in the room at the initial exam, with the option to perform his or her own examination.


The employee will have to pay for any IME that he or she personally seeks out, but may be eligible for reimbursement through their employer.


Does The Independent Medical Exam Affect My Iowa Work Comp Award?


The results of the IME, including the diagnoses, severity of injury/illness, level and duration of impairment, and possible time for recovery and treatment can be used as evidence in your work comp case, and the doctor’s opinion is considered expert testimony. All of these findings will greatly impact your benefit award.


Should I Consult An Attorney Before My Independent Medical Examination?


It is highly suggested that you seek out a competent and experienced attorney before you IME. Your attorney can help prepare you for the IME and give you tips on how to handle certain situations and respond appropriately and truthfully to any medical questions so you don’t inadvertently damage your chances of receiving fair compensation.


Your attorney can also work with your independent medical examiner on filling in any gaps in your condition, symptoms, or medical history prior to the exam so he or she can give a more detailed and thorough report.


If you are involved in a work comp case and have questions or need representation, give us a call at 563-503-6910.


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