What NOT to Say to a Workers’ Comp Doctor

Photo of author
Written By Rocky Horton

Injured in an Accident? Get Free Claim Assistance. Learn More 

If you’re wondering what not to say to a workers’ comp doctor, you or someone you know may have sustained an injury while on the job and are currently in the process of filing for compensation. Workers’ comp cases are often cut-and-dry since employers usually supply doctors and lawyers to handle the details.

However, you could reduce or lose your settlement by saying the wrong thing to the workers’ comp doctor during the independent medical examination (IME). These exams are conducted to answer questions regarding your injuries posed by the workers’ comp attorneys, your employer, and the insurance company.

Depending on the state in which you work, the doctor who conducts the IME may be chosen by the employer or the insurers, though sometimes the selection is random. Either way, it’s safe to assume that the doctor has a working relationship with the insurers or your employer, so the content of their expert testimony is significant when deciding the outcome of your case.

Therefore, knowing how to speak to them can give you a better chance of receiving the workers’ comp settlement you deserve for your work-related injury. Continue reading to learn more about this process but consider hiring an attorney experienced in settling workers’ compensation cases to learn more about your situation.

Don’t Lie or Exaggerate About the Work Injury

Avoid exaggerating the severity of your work injury as well as downplaying your symptoms since both can hurt your case later. The truth of your injuries will be revealed by the doctor’s expert diagnosis as well as test results, so the closer your testimony adheres to the official results, the better.

Still, it can seem tempting to exaggerate your symptoms, such as by claiming that a foot injury prevents you from walking to secure a larger settlement. This rarely works due to the thoroughness of the exams and the insurance company’s investigation following the accident. Many injured workers who claim workers’ comp based on certain injuries are caught later doing activities (such as walking) that they claimed to be unable to do. This results in a revoked settlement or even additional legal fines.

In the same but opposite sense, downplaying your symptoms can hurt your case by preventing the doctor from conducting the proper tests that will reveal the severity of your injuries. If you do not tell them how much it hurts or where, you may not be able to claim the injury later, even if a chronic condition has begun to form.

The most profitable strategy for you is always to be honest about your symptoms. Remember that workers’ comp only pays for your medical costs, not your pain and suffering, so exaggeration will never net a larger settlement.

Don’t Lie or Omit Facts About the Accident that Caused the Injury

Any list of what not to say to a workers’ comp doctor should include lying about the circumstances of the accident that caused your injury. This includes lying by omitting facts as well as by fabricating events.

You can never be sure what the workers’ comp attorneys will discover in their investigation, including the accounts of witnesses who were at the scene and the testimony of your employer. Trying to fool the workers’ comp doctor by lying will not work when it contradicts the other evidence that has been gathered.

If your testimony is determined to be a lie or an inaccurate account, you can lose your settlement or cause it to be reduced. Having said that, the workers’ comp attorneys may try to get you to admit fault or exaggerate your part in the accident. Remember that honesty works in your favor as well since you are not obligated to blame yourself for the accident when recounting it.

Don’t Exhibit Behavior Inconsistent with the Reported Injuries or Symptoms

You can lose your settlement if you are caught behaving in a way that is inconsistent with your accident claim. As soon as you report your injuries, the workers’ comp attorneys will watch your every move to find inconsistencies, including during your IME with the workers’ comp doctor.

Things they will be looking for include walking on a supposedly injured foot, using a hand you claim to be unusable, or even sitting too straight to have a back or neck injury as severe as you claimed. You need to be aware of your behavior in front of the workers’ comp doctor so that you remain consistent with your reported symptoms.

This is another reason why lying or exaggerating can hurt your claim since this makes it even more difficult to behave in a way that is consistent with your claims.

Don’t Lie About or Omit Prior Injuries or Preexisting Conditions

A dispute over whether your injury is actually work-related or the result of a prior injury is one of the most common reasons that workers’ comp claims are denied. You may be afraid that a pre-existing injury could reduce your claim, but lying about it is worse when the doctors and attorneys working for your employer will most likely discover it anyway.

While true that prior injuries could be used against you to potentially place some blame on you for the accident or reduce the symptoms that the workers’ comp attorneys are willing to settle, a good lawyer can help you get the settlement you deserve regardless of your prior conditions.

Don’t Make Statements Inconsistent with Those Made to the Treating Physician

Make sure that the claims you make to the workers’ comp doctor are consistent with those you made to the treating physician. The treating physician is the emergency room doctor, primary care physician, or other specialist that you initially saw to treat your injury following the accident.

If the circumstances of the accident or your injuries differ between your accounts, the workers’ comp attorneys could claim that you are lying in an attempt to get a bigger settlement. The best strategy to avoid these inconsistencies is to tell the truth to each doctor you speak with. If new pain or symptoms have become apparent since speaking with the treating physician, make sure you clarify with the workers’ comp doctor that this is the case.

Workers’ Compensation Doctor vs Worker’s Treating Physician

The treating physician has a slightly different role in your case than the workers’ comp doctor. The physician will offer the initial diagnosis, prescribe your treatment, refer you to specialists, and determine your work restrictions or disability level. All of this is valuable evidence in your case.

By contrast, the IME is conducted by a doctor you have never met and is used to corroborate your claims and your doctor’s diagnosis with the opinion of the expert chosen, which in most cases is done by your employer or their insurer.

Don’t Discuss Fault or Admit Liability

Even if you believe you could be at fault for the accident, you should not discuss this opinion with the workers’ comp doctor. If you are liable for the accident due to your actions, this will be decided based on witness accounts and other available evidence. If you admit fault without needing to, you can hurt your case even if you would not be considered at fault otherwise.

Though you are not obligated to admit fault, you should know that certain actions can reduce or even negate your workers’ compensation. For instance, if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident or acting in violation of your company’s safety procedures, you may lose your settlement.

Don’t Discuss Workers’ Comp Settlements

Though the workers’ comp doctor examines you to provide evidence in your workers’ comp case, you should not discuss settlements with them. This includes your expectations for the settlement amount, any research you’ve done, or anything about the doctor’s past cases.

This can hurt your case because the doctor will tell the attorneys that you are focused on the settlement more than your injuries, which they can take as evidence that you are not as hurt as you may claim. Always talk about your symptoms and the circumstances honestly as though the medicine, rather than the money, is your main concern.

Don’t Be Rude or Speak Ill of Your Employer

Along the same lines, you should not speak harshly or rudely about your employer to the workers’ comp doctor. In the first place, they may have a working relationship with them and can relay this information. Unlike personal injury lawsuits, workers’ comp cases do not get employees fired from their positions, so your relationship with your employer is still important to maintain.

Even if this is not the case, however, you should not give the impression that you are vengeful or overly accusatory to the doctor. They can take this to indicate that you are exaggerating your settlement to “get back” at your employer rather than to compensate for genuine medical injuries.

When to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?

It can always be advantageous to hire a workers’ comp lawyer if you are injured at work as they can help you assemble the necessary evidence, say the right things, and stay clear of the actions that will hurt your case.

However, they are especially helpful in circumstances when your employer is reluctant to help you file your workers’ comp case or when the injury you sustained is chronic rather than acute. Injuries resulting from a single incident are easier to prove than chronic injuries caused by repetitive motions or working conditions over time. Yet, they can be just as debilitating.

An attorney experienced in workers’ comp cases can help you gather the evidence needed to prove difficult cases, but they can also help steer you toward the settlement you deserve regardless of the evidence required.


Knowing what not to say to a workers’ comp doctor can be difficult, but your actions during their exam can have a lasting impact on your workers’ comp settlement. The main thing is to remain honest about your injuries and the circumstances without admitting fault or accusing your employer. Speak with a lawyer to learn more about your eligibility for a settlement if you were injured on the job and need help filing for workers’ comp.

Rocky Horton

Rocky Horton


Rocky Horton is a health and safety expert from Chapel Hill, NC. He is the founder of AccidentAdvisor and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, and other publications. Learn more.