Getting good medical treatment is very important. It helps you recover from a work injury.
Sometimes, the first doctor you treat with will not provide the treatment you need. You may need to change doctors to recover from your injury.
This article covers your right to change doctors after the initial selection of a doctor off the panel of physicians. If you do not know the basics about making an initial selection on the panel, I would recommend you read this article I wrote first.
Changing Doctors on the Panel of Physicians
There are several potential ways to change doctors in a Workers’ Compensation case. One way is through the panel of physicians. An injured worker simply selects another doctor on the employer’s posted panel of physicians and notifies the employer of that selection.
O.C.G.A. §34-9-201(b)(1) provides that, after the initial selection of a treating doctor, “The employee may make one change from one physician to another on the same panel without prior authorization of the board.” This section of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation law gives an injured worker the right to change to a different doctor on the panel of physicians.
You can make this one time change for any reason. It is important to remember that this is only a one time right to change doctors on the panel.
Once you use this panel change, it is gone. But you can still change doctors other ways.
Some Reasons You Might Not Change on the Panel of Physicians
Many times, an injured worker may need to change physicians but cannot find a good choice on the employer’s panel of physicians:
- The particular type of specialist you need to see is not on the employer’s panel
- You and your attorney believe that you cannot get a fair shake from the “company doctors” on the panel of physicians
- You may have already seen two doctors on the panel of physicians and still have problems that those doctors have not fixed
Agreeing to Change Doctors
In addition to this one time right to change physicians on the panel, an injured worker (either individually or through an attorney) can simply reach an agreement with the employer and workers’ compensation insurance company to change to a different doctor.
There is nothing requiring the doctor who is agreed upon come from the panel of physicians. A change by agreement provides an opportunity to get specialized medical care from a particular doctor. This may help you get better and go back to work.
If both sides agree, then a Form WC-200a can be filed with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. After that, the doctor agreed to will become the authorized treating physician.
Motions to Change Doctors
What do you do if you cannot agree on a doctor or pick a good one off the panel? Georgia law provides another way to change doctors. If you need to see a particular doctor or type of doctor and the employer will not agree, you can request a change of physician by filing a request under O.C.G.A. §34-9-200(b).
Rule 200 of the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation specifies how to make this request. Basically, the injured worker or an attorney representing him or her can file a motion requesting a change of physician on a Form WC-200b. You can also request a hearing seeking a change of physician by filing a Form WC-14.
Either way, you need to present evidence supporting why you need to change doctors. This evidence might include medical records from a doctor indicating that you needed additional treatment or that you needed to see a specialist. If a motion is filed, it might also include an affidavit from the injured worker.
Whether the motion is filed or a hearing takes place, an Administrative Law Judge at the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation will ultimately issue an award determining whether a change of physician should be granted. Either side can appeal this award, but the time window to appeal it is fairly short.