How Do I Choose a Workers Compensation Doctor?
When you get hurt, you need to see a good doctor. We all know that medical treatment matters if you want to have a good recovery from a serious injury.
Fortunately, medical treatment for your injury is one of the three primary benefits of Georgia’s workers compensation law. Generally, you can get the treatment you need because of your injury. But, there are rules about which doctors can treat you.
To get the best treatment for your injury, you will want to see the best doctors. To make sure that happens, you need to understand your medical treatment rights under Georgia’s workers compensation law. This article will focus on which doctors you can select to treat your injury and how you can select them.
Yes. You can choose your workers compensation doctor in a Georgia workers compensation case. But, your choices are often limited.
The basic rule is that your employer should have posted a document called a panel of physicians. Many people refer to this as the workers compensation doctor list because that is basically what it is.
The panel of physicians contains some basic information about workers compensation medical treatment and reporting an injury. It also should contain the names of at least six doctors if it’s a traditional panel of physicians.
The employer gets to choose which doctors are on that list. The employer can include more than six, but they have to include at least six. At least one of the doctor on the panel of physicians list has to be an orthopedic surgeon
While the employer gets to choose the doctors that go on the list, you get to choose which specific doctor will treat your injury. The doctor that you choose is called the authorized treating physician.
What happens if I do not want to choose a treating doctor off the panel of physicians list?
Georgia’s workers compensation law has rules about what medical treatment your employer has to pay for. One of the requirements is that the treatment has to be authorized medical treatment.
Authorized medical treatment does not mean that the insurance company preauthorizes or preapproves that medical treatment. Instead, authorized medical treatment means that the treatment or testing is provided or ordered by an authorized medical provider.
One authorized medical providers is your authorized treating physician. Another authorized medical provider is a doctor to whom your authorized treating physician has referred you.
You cannot just treat with anyone that you want after a workers compensation injury. There are certain rules under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation law about who you can pick.
If you choose a doctor on your own who is not on the employer’s panel of physicians list, that doctor is probably not going to be an authorized doctor. So, even if that doctor provides treatment or testing for your work injury, the workers compensation insurance company will probably have a valid reason not to pay for that treatment or testing.
You want to make sure that the workers compensation insurance company pays for the medical treatment and testing you need for your injury. So, you need to make sure that the doctors providing treatment are authorized doctors.
It can be quite common that your employer tells you to go to a specific doctor for treatment of your work injury. Also, your employer may tell you that you can only choose between two or three different doctors.
There are two questions that come up when this happens. One is whether your employer has complied with the legal requirements of properly posting and explaining the panel of physicians.
If you can prove that your employer has not complied with these legal requirement, you may be entitled to choose a treating doctor that is not on their list. This can be very helpful because you are not limited to six doctors on the list that may not be the best doctors to treat your injury.
The second question that comes up is whether you can change doctors if your employer picks your treating doctor and you are not happy with that doctor. You certainly can. You have a right to change to a different doctor on the panel of physicians.
If the insurance company picks your treating doctor, it is basically the same as if your employer picked the doctor. You need to consider whether your employer met its legal requirements to post and explain the panel of physicians. If a workers compensation judge determines they did not, you may be able to select any doctor you want. Even if they met the requirements, you can still change to a different doctor on the panel of physicians list.
Am I limited in the number of times I can change doctors?
The answer to this question is yes and no. You are limited to the number of times that you get a free, automatic change on the panel of physicians.
What I mean by the free, automatic change is that you just information the workers compensation insurance company that you want to change to a different doctor on the panel of physicians list and that change automatically happens. Once you select a doctor off the panel, you only get an automatic change one time.
After that one time change, the changes are not automatic. So, you have to get agreement of the employer or workers compensation insurance company or you have to get an order from a workers compensation judge.
Since you generally only get one free, automatic change, you need to make sure that you make a good doctor selection. You certainly may want to do some research on the doctors on the panel of physicians list to determine which doctor would be most appropriate and best to treat your injury. There are certainly online research tools that you can use now to do that. If you decide to get an attorney involved in your case, the attorney can make some recommendations to you about what doctor you might want to treat with and why.
What if I have other Georgia workers compensation questions?
One of our attorneys is happy to talk to you for free if you have questions. To schedule a free consultation with me or one of our other attorneys, just call our office at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit this form.
Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers. He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.
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