Many people refer to the doctors who provide medical treatment for work injuries as workers compensation doctors. Some people use the term “company doctors”.
In Georgia, injured workers are often told that they must go to the doctor that the employer or workers’ compensation insurance company chooses. This is not the case the case.
Do Workers Compensation Doctors Actually Work For My Employer?
Probably not. The doctors are picked by your employer to be on their list of doctors (otherwise known as the “panel of physicians”). However, that does not mean the doctor works for your employer.
Your employer should have a posted panel of physicians (unless your employer uses a WC/MCO). This panel should have at least six doctors on it. The doctor that your employer sent you to is probably one of the doctors on the panel.
Many employers use the panel of physicians to their advantage. They may pick doctors who are likely to say that you are not as hurt as you say you are. They may pick doctors who are likely to blame your problems on a preexisting condition instead of the work injury.
This can prevent you from getting the medical treatment you need and the wage loss benefits you should receive if you have to miss work as a result of your injury.
Will the Workers Compensation Doctor Treat Me Fairly?
It depends. Some employers put good and fair doctors on the panel of physicians. Some employers do not. If your employer is picking the doctors on the panel of physicians, they may pick doctors who will make it difficult to get the treatment you need.
You want to get better. You need to treat with a doctor with good ability. You also need a doctor who is fair.
To do this, you need to understand your right to choose your doctor. You also need to be on the lookout for signs that your current doctor is not treating you fairly.
Your main workers compensation doctor (also known as your “authorized treating physician”) has a lot of power in your case. The doctor’s opinion about your ability to work can result in your benefits being stopped or started. The doctor’s opinion about what medical treatment is necessary will definitely how well you recover from your injury.
Make sure you have a good, fair doctor.
There are many exceptions to this rule, so you often will be able to have at least some input into your choice of doctors.
What is the rule on choosing doctors?
State Board Rule 201 contains some of the information about how doctors are chosen in a Georgia workers’ compensation case.
Subsection (a) of this rule which talks about the employer’s list of doctors (technically known in most cases as the “panel of physicians”) talks about two different types of lists that an employer may have. This article is only going to focus on the first type of list (the traditional “panel of physicians”) because it is the type of list used in most Georgia workers’ compensation cases.
Board Rule 201(a)(1) specifies that an employer’s panel of physicians must have the following:
- At least six (6) physicians or professional associations or corporations of physicians
- At least one orthopedic physician
- No more than two industrial clinics
- At least one minority physicians
So, there are several requirements to a valid panel of physicians. First, there must be at least six doctors or professional associations or corporations of physicians.
Among those six or more, there must be at least one orthopedic physician, at least one minority physician, and no more than two industrial clinics.
How Can I Pick My Own Doctor?
Even though Georgia law gives injured workers the right to pick their doctor off the employer’s panel of physicians, many injured workers are sent directly to these doctors without getting offered a selection.
Many people have questions about the doctors to whom their employers send them.Make sure you get a copy of the panel of physicians. It should look like the document below although it will probably be pink instead of white:
As you will notice, there are spaces for at least six doctors in the bottom half of the panel. You need to get a copy or picture of your employer’s panel of physicians to find out the doctors listed.
Why does it matter if a a panel of physicians is valid?
If the panel of physicians is valid and properly posted and explained, then the workers’ compensation insurance company can limit an injured workers’ choice of doctors to the doctors on the panel. However, it is still the injured worker who gets to make the actual choice among those doctors.
So, even in that situation, the employer or insurance company do not actually get to choose the specific doctor who will treat the injury. You have choice although your choice may be very limited. Also, there are ways to change doctors.
If the panel of physicians does not meet the requirements listed above, then an injured worker should be able to choose any doctor for treatment of the work injury. You can choose a doctor even if the doctor is not one of the doctors on the employer’s list. This way, you can make sure that you get the best doctor for treatment of your injury.
Before you choose or change doctors on the panel of physicians, take a look at this article to make sure you do not make a big mistake. Your workers’ compensation doctor can have a big impact on your case so you want to make sure you have a doctor who will treat you fairly.
Find out more
You may have questions. Talking to a workers’ compensation attorney is usually the best way to get answers. I would be happy to talk to you and try to get you some answers.
Setting up a free consultation is often the best way to get these answers and to find out if I can help you. It will give you some information about what can be done in your case at no cost to you. Find out more about what information you will learn in a free consultation and how to set on up by reading this article.
Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers. He regularly blogs about Georgia’s workers’ compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.
You can subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation channel on YouTube.