Injured Workers Have the Right to Bring an Observer to IME

L&I recently released its policy on a worker’s right to bring an observer to an IME. This is a good policy for injured workers. It provides:

  • You can bring an adult friend or family member as an observer to a non-mental health IME.
  • You cannot bring an observer to a mental health IME.
  • You should tell the IME firm ahead of time that you are bringing an observer so the firm can make appropriate accommodations, for example, using a facility that is large enough to allow for social distancing during COVID-19.
  • If the IME firm cannot make appropriate accommodations, the IME will need to be rescheduled.

While it is not necessary to have an observer at an IME, it can be a very good idea. Sometimes an IME report will contain information that you disagree with. Having an observer at the IME, especially one who takes notes, can help you challenge any inaccuracies in the report.

If you need an interpreter at an IME, one will be provided. The interpreter would not count as your observer.

Here is the L&I Statement of Policy in its entirety:

Worker Rights to an Observer

Pursuant to WAC 296-23-362, workers have the right to bring an adult friend or family member to Independent Medical Exams (IMEs), except for a mental health examination, to serve in the role of observer providing comfort and reassurance. IME firms are expected to support any worker requests for an observer during a non-mental health IME. They must also refrain from any reference, in written or spoken communication with workers, to limitations on observers during IMEs. This worker right remains in effect, and it’s up to the IME firm to ensure the ability to comply with the COVID-19 safety requirements for six feet of social distancing.

Firms should obtain information in advance of the IME on whether the worker plans to bring an observer and take steps to ensure the appropriate exam room size. In the event that the firm is unable to accommodate the worker’s IME with an observer, the IME will need to be rescheduled.

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