One of my clients was just sent an IME (independent medical examination) notice to travel 313 miles one way from Kingsland, GA to Atlanta, GA for an IME with a general ophthalmologist physician. That would be a 626 round trip to attend an Employer/Insurer IME. On top of it all, my client just had surgery on his own dime to fix his work injury, because the work comp insurer is not paying for his medical treatment. We have requested a hearing for failure to provide medical treatment and provide workers’ compensation benefits. The Employer/Insurer is fighting us, and trying to send our client to a physician who might say that our client’s issues are unrelated to the work accident. I guess that is why they selected a physician located 313 miles away from our client and the venue of the hearing!
I immediately asked the attorney for work comp insurer to cancel the appointment and choose a physician who is located closer to my client’s residence. Opposing counsel refused, and we have a conference call scheduled with the Judge for this afternoon.
An Employer/WC Insurer is allowed to schedule an IME for an injured work. However, the law provides the following:
O.C.G.A. 34-9-202(a): “After an injury and as long as he claims compensation, the employee, if so requested by his or her employer, shall submit himself or herself to examination, at reasonable times and places, by a duly qualified physician or surgeon designated and paid by the employer or the board. Such examination may include physical, psychiatric, and psychological examinations.”
We will see whether the Judge thinks it is reasonable to require the injured worker to drive 626 miles in order to see an Employer/Insurer’s selected IME physician, when there are tons of physicians, who practice the exact same specialty, who are located within a 50 mile radius of the injured worker.
Unfortunately, this type of conduct by an Employer/Insurer is so typical in the GA workers’ compensation system – this is an example of an Employer/Insurer and defense counsel who are essentially trying to harass an injured worker, and make his life difficult for absolutely no reason whatsoever, other than to attempt to drive the injured worker to the point of where he no longer wants to pursue the claim or is willing to accept less than he deserves.
While the above is concerning, I have come to expect this type of behavior from workers’ compensation insurers. I am anxious to see what the Judge will say regarding this matter. Over the past 18 years that I have been practicing, I have noticed a shift in the climate of the workers’ compensation laws and the judicial interpretations of the laws. Now more than ever, the laws and the interpretations of the laws seem to greatly favor the Employers and their insurance companies at the expense of injured workers; it is a sad state of affairs. I will update you when I get a response from the Judge.
Update: During the course of the conference call, opposing counsel voluntarily elected to cancel the IME with the physician located in Atlanta, and agreed to schedule an IME with a physician located closer to our client’s residence. Our mission was accomplished!