The Arizona Court of Appeals has recently ruled that an independent medical examiner, who is performing an examination on an injured worker on behalf of the insurance company, has a duty of care to that injured worker.
In the case of Ritchie v Krasner, the Plaintiff, Jeremy Ritchie, hurt his back at work, suffering a bruised spinal cord and compression of the cervical spinal cord. The workers' compensation insurance carrier hired Dr. Scott Krasner to perform an independent medical examination on Mr. Ritchie, which is the standard procedure in almost every state. Dr. Krasner basically concluded that Mr. Ritchie was fine and he was able to perform unrestricted work.
However, after 8 months of continued pain and his condition worsening, Mr. Ritchie treated with a neurologist who found that his cervical spinal cord had compressed and could not be fixed by surgery. Thus, this condition was permanent and painful.
Ritchie filed suit against Dr. Krasner, against the doctor who performed the original medical examination of behalf of the workers' compensation insurance carrier. Ultimately, the appeals court held that IME doctors have a duty to perform at the normal standard of care for all doctors of their specialty.
Mr. Ritchie's lawyer indicated that "the signs and symptoms Ritchie had should have alerted the doctor. But they didn't. Either he missed them, or - depending on how cynical you want to be - he was given his marching orders to terminate Ritchie's benefits, which is what he did."
Most likely, the doctor was basically following orders from the insurance company. In our practice, there are several insurance company doctors who are used often because the carriers know that the doctor will rule in the employer's favor and against the employee. These doctors are used over and over and over again. Although this is not the law currently in Pennsylvania, it certainly demonstrates the possibility that IME doctors can be held accountable for their actions.