Can You Choose Your Own Doctor If You Have a Worker's Comp Injury?

Law Articles

When injury occurs on the job, most employers encourage or even require their staff to seek medical care from a company doctor. However, you may be wondering if you're limited to this option or if you can seek treatment from a doctor of your choosing. The following can help shed some light on this complicated and sometimes confusing issue.

Your State Might Have a Say in the Matter

Many states have different guidelines regarding the treatment of work-related injuries that are covered under worker's compensation. Some states allow injured workers to seek treatment from a doctor of their own choosing as long as said doctor is within the insurance provider's network. Other states require injured workers to be seen by a doctor specifically chosen by the employer or its insurance provider.

For instance, the state of Michigan allows employers to select their employee's medical provider during the first 28 days after a worker's comp injury. After those 28 days are up, you can choose your own doctor to carry out the remainder of the treatment. In most cases, the request to choose your own doctor after the 28 day period has to be made in writing to the employer and its insurance provider.

Meanwhile, the state of Pennsylvania allows you to have your work injury treated by a doctor of your choosing as long as your employer doesn't accept your workers comp claim. Otherwise, you'll have to visit a doctor on the company's list of approved health care providers during the first 90 days of injury. However, you can switch providers as long as your employer is notified in advance.

Why Employers Use Company Doctors

You're probably wondering why your employer or its insurance company would require you to see a company doctor instead of seeing your own, in most cases. Doctors hired by the employer or insurance company are usually seasoned in dealing with worker's comp-related cases and the injuries that stem from those claims. These doctors will conduct an independent medical examination on the company or insurance provider's behalf and use the findings to decide whether to approve or deny a worker's comp claim.

Unfortunately, this also makes company doctors susceptible to conflict of interest. Since they effectively work for the other side, it's not out of the ordinary for company doctors to issue findings in favor of the company instead of the worker. For instance, a company doctor performing an independent medical examination could decide that your injury isn't work-related or that there's no evidence of injury.

You're Entitled to a Second Opinion

Just because you're not able to choose your own doctor in the beginning doesn't mean you're stuck with that doctor's assessment of your injuries and/or condition. If you're not satisfied with the diagnosis and treatment you're getting from your company's doctor, you may be able to receive a second opinion from a doctor of your own choosing. Again, this option depends heavily on your state's statutes and regulations.

Keep in mind that while most states allow you to seek treatment from another doctor you've chosen, doing so may limit the scope of your worker's comp claim. For starters, the insurance company may limit the number of visits outside of the provider network that it's willing to cover.

It's a good idea to have a talk with a personal injury attorney to figure out the best course of action when it comes to your workplace injuries and workers comp. It's also important to report workplace injuries as soon as possible, since allowing old injuries to linger could negatively impact your ability to work later on.


8 February 2016

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