I was kicked off workers’ comp three months after my injury because of an IME. I am still in a lot of pain because my injury has not healed. I am now in so much pain that I am going to see my orthopedic doctor to see about some relief.
The injury took place in Tennessee. The workers’ comp insurance carrier is out of Arizona, so they said my case is an Arizona workers’ comp case.
I was sent to an IME the minute that I spoke to the workers’ comp ortho doctor about surgery. Everything went downhill from there.
The IME doctor said that I had a pre-existing condition and that it had nothing to do with them, so my workers’ comp case was closed.
I still work for the company but I am not sure how much longer I can stand the pain. Is there any recourse or am I just out of luck?
Thanks for any information you can tell me.
Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.
Dear Franklin ,
Your question raises a couple of interesting issues. Let’s consider them one at a time.
Which State Workers’ Comp Laws Apply?
First, you say that the injury took place in Tennessee but that you’re being told it’s an Arizona workers’ compensation case because the insurance company is in Arizona.
However, you don’t tell us if you live and work in Tennessee, or if you live in Arizona or some other state and were temporarily working in Tennessee when you were injured.
Tennessee workers’ compensation law states:
An employee from another state and the employee’s employer are exempt from this chapter while the employee is temporarily in this state performing work for the employer if:
The employer has furnished workers’ compensation insurance coverage under the workers’ compensation insurance or similar laws of the other state to cover the employee’s employment while in this state . . . .
Based on this law, your claim may well be governed by Arizona law depending on where your employer is physically located and the extent of your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
Unfortunately, your question does not provide enough information for us to give you a more direct answer on this issue.
Independent Medical Exam (IME)
Next, you mentioned that your claim has been sidetracked based on the opinions of an IME. Since you were injured in Tennessee, we will answer this question based on Tennessee law.
As you know, an IME is an independent medical exam. Your employer has the right under Tennessee law to have you examined by an IME doctor.
Employers often ask for an IME when the treating doctor diagnoses a permanent disability, determines that you may face significant work restrictions, or that you have a significant degree of medical impairment.
Many personal injury lawyers who represent employees injured on the job will refer to an IME as a “defense medical exam.” Since the IME doctor is paid by the employer’s workers comp insurance, the doctor may be biased in favor of the employer.
Tennessee law does attempt to bring some fairness to the process of choosing doctors to conduct an IME.
Tennessee has a statute that provides as follows:
When a dispute as to the degree of medical impairment exists, either party may request an independent medical examiner from the commissioner’s registry. . . .
Upon receipt of the written request, the commissioner shall provide the names of three (3) independent medical examiners chosen at random from the registry. . . .
The employer may strike one (1) name from the list . . . . The employee shall select a physician to perform the independent medical examination from the remaining physicians on the list.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has an Ombudsman program. The program is designed to provide assistance to anyone involved in a workers’ compensation claim who is not represented by an attorney.
The Ombudsman’s program can help unrepresented workers maneuver through the claim process. Keep in mind, however, that the Ombudsman cannot provide you with legal advice.
The Ombudsman can only:
- Help you identify the applicable laws
- Inform you of your rights and obligations under those laws
- Assist you with completing forms and obtaining medical records
The Bureau’s Ombudsman program has published a Beginner’s Guide to Tennessee Worker’s Compensation handbook that can assist you in understanding issues related to your claim.
It is not clear from your question whether you have an attorney, but it seems that you do not. Navigating your way through a worker’s compensation claim, particularly one where there is a dispute as to the nature and severity of the injury, can be a difficult task.
An experienced personal injury lawyer who represents injured workers could provide valuable help to you in pursuing your claim.
Learn more here: Independent Medical Exams
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.
We wish you the best with your claim,
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