IME Rulemaking Changes Enacted by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries

In large part due to the lobbying efforts of the claimant’s bar, the State of Washington has recently taken efforts to limit the Department of Labor and Industries (“LNI”) and self-insured employers in obtaining independent medical examinations (IME).  Under the recently-effective legislation, new changes include:

  • A new definition of “new medical issue,” which is now defined as a “medical issue not covered by a previous medical examination requested by the department or the self-insurer such as an issue regarding medical causation, medical treatment, work restrictions, or evaluating permanent partial disability;”
  • A new rule which governs disputes arising from a self-insurer’s notification of an IME to the worker concerning:
    • Whether the basis of the IME was properly included in a letter, and
    • Whether a letter was mailed at least 28 days prior to the IME;
  • The ability of LNI to postpone an IME if it receives a dispute notification at least 15 days prior to the IME, and the ability of LNI to order the cancellation an IME pending its investigation of a dispute (with the apparent ability of a claimant to dispute the necessity of an IME at any time);
  • A new definition of “case progress examination,” as well as when a case progress examination can be requested by either a provider or self-insurer (which, with respect to self-insurers, can be done only under limited circumstances); and
  • A purported limitation on the number of examinations that may be requested by a self-insurer.

Other aspects of the new law allow LNI to reassume jurisdiction of a BIAA appeal by either party, and for interested parties to request IME data from LNI concerning “emerging trends.”

For more information on these changes, please see our detailed memo on these matters.