If you’re injured at work and you need emergency care, you have a right to seek treatment wherever necessary – but what about after the emergency passes? Can you go to your regular primary care physician or, at least, pick your own workers’ comp doctor?
In Virginia, unfortunately, your employer holds most of the cards – although you’re not entirely without power. Here’s what you need to know:
Your employer’s “panel of physicians” limits your choices
Under the law, your employer is required to provide you with a list of approved physicians who can treat you for a workplace injury. This panel of physicians must include at least three physicians in different practices. You need to pick a provider from this list to treat your workplace injuries.
If your employer fails to provide you with this list or the list is defective (meaning something like all three doctors are in the same practice or two of the doctors aren’t accepting new patients), then you can choose whomever you want.
The reality is that this list could be a “stacked deck,” in that your employer chose doctors they know are “employer-friendly” and likely to authorize your return to work either without adequate healing time or even thorough testing.
So, what can you do? Here are some tips that can help:
- Do not choose without looking. Online tools such as Vitals and Healthgrades or even Yelp can provide critical insights into that doctor’s practice and the experiences of their prior patients. While one or two negative reviews shouldn’t alarm you, a host of them should make you concerned – especially if the complaints are similar.
- Ask around. Some of your co-workers, friends or family members may have had experience with one or more of the doctors on the panel. If so, get their take on the physician’s quality of care and professionalism.
Finally, you may want to safeguard your rights further by seeking experienced legal guidance. While workers’ comp is supposed to be an easy, fault-free system, injured workers routinely find themselves in disputes over the extent of their injuries and exactly what benefits they are due.