Can You Choose Your Own Doctor to Treat a Work Injury?
Most injured workers want to get the best treatment possible, recover, and move on with their lives. However, for those who have spent years with one doctor, the thought of depending on a stranger for care after a devastating work injury may seem overwhelming.
The good news is, Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law does make allowances for injured workers to receive treatment from the doctor of their choice, but only under certain circumstances. One such circumstance includes an injured worker’s initial visit to the doctor. For very serious injuries, a visit to any emergency room is also permissible.
Workers’ Compensation Doctors
The employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance company has a list of approved doctors that an injured employee can select from. Once a doctor is selected, it is possible to change doctors if a second opinion is desired or if an employee is dissatisfied with their treatment or recovery progress. However, if the change is made within the first 90 days of the injury, the new doctor must also be from the approved list.
Doctors on the approved panel for work injury claims provide the following services to injured workers:
- Diagnosis of injury
- Assignment of work restrictions
- Specialist referrals
It is not uncommon for the insurance company to mandate that an injured worker see a specific doctor for an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME). This doctor does not provide treatment to the injured worker, but rather evaluates the severity of the injury. The findings of this exam are then sent to the insurance company. If requested, injured workers must attend the IME or risk losing their rights to Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Individuals are often called for an IME under the following circumstances:
- Insurance company disagrees with the treating physician’s diagnosis or assigned work restriction.
- Insurance company wants to determine if payment is still necessary.
- Evidence is needed to dispute or deny a claim.
- The worker received a permanent or partial disability diagnosis.
Injured Pennsylvania workers who are asked to attend an IME can protect their rights to benefits by consulting with a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer prior to their appointment.
After 90 Days
If a worker is still receiving benefits after 90 days, they can elect to see the doctor of their choice. For those that plan to do so, it is important to notify the Workers’ Compensation insurance company beforehand. Failure to provide the new doctor’s name and information to the insurance company could result in unpaid medical bills.
People often switch doctors at this time, especially if there are concerns that their Workers’ Compensation doctor may not have their best interests in mind. For example, it may be time to switch doctors if the attending physician:
- Seems to ignore complaints of pain or discomfort
- Minimizes medical conditions
- Assigns insufficient work restrictions
Workers’ Compensation doctors do work for the insurance company to some extent, and although most physicians are in the practice to help people, some physicians may have the bottom line in mind.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Protect the Rights of Injured Workers
If you have been injured at work or feel that your attending physician does not have your best interests at heart, contact a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Our attorneys have extensive experience helping injured workers receive the full benefits to which they are entitled.
For a free consultation, call 888-999-1962 or contact us online today. We provide experienced legal counsel to workers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina from our offices in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, and Pinehurst.