If you suffer a serious injury at work that can’t wait for treatment, don’t wait to seek treatment. You have an absolute right to seek emergency medical care whenever necessary, without waiting on any kind of instruction or permission from your employer.
But, what happens if your injury isn’t quite so severe or after your condition is stabilized? In this state, the responsibility of choosing an injured worker’s treating physician for workers’ compensation purposes lies with the employer or their insurer, rather than the patient – with few exceptions. That provider is ultimately responsible for all the care related to a workplace injury, including referrals to specialists, and the trajectory of your recovery and an employee’s claim for benefits.
That seems unfair. What if you can’t trust the doctor you’re assigned?
It can be challenging to entrust your well-being to someone unfamiliar and potentially lacking your complete confidence. And, practically speaking, “company doctors” are very conscious of who pays them, so the implications are troubling. You may worry that your workers’ comp physician has the company’s best interests at heart, not yours. That can translate to less-than-optimum medical care, denied benefits and/or an unreasonable push to return to work before you’re ready.
If you believe that the assigned doctor does not genuinely have your best interests at heart, you might consider changing physicians. The law does give you that right upon your written request – but only once.
Even though the second doctor is supposed to be unaffiliated with the first doctor (meaning they’re in a different practice), switching physicians is still a risky proposition. You could end up with someone that gives you even less confidence, and they may treat you as if you were merely “doctor shopping” to get a more favorable outcome on your claim. Worse, you would then be stuck with that doctor for the duration of your treatment.
If you feel like your workers’ comp physician isn’t really hearing your complaints or they’re biased against you, you may not want to exercise that one-time option to switch physicians right away. It can be far wiser to get some legal guidance about your situation to better protect your rights before making that switch.