How do employers choose their panel of workers' compensation doctors?

work_comp_doctorIn Georgia, employees injured on the job may be entitled to medical, rehabilitation, and income benefits under the state's Workers' Compensation Law. Workers' compensation covers a wide range of authorized medical expenses, including doctor bills and hospital bills.

However, unless a worker's injuries are emergent in nature, their employer is unlikely to cover medical care provided by just any doctor.

Instead, in most cases, the injured employee is required to choose a physician from the employer's panel of workers' compensation doctors.

By law, this panel must:

  • Be comprised of six unaffiliated doctors or clinics
  • Include at least one orthopedic surgeon
  • Have no more than two industrial clinics
  • Include at least one minority doctor, based on ethnicity or gender

The doctors on this panel are chosen by the employer, often in consultation with its insurer. Additionally, employers can review the performance of the doctors on their panel and change them if they don't live up to their expectations.

The ability to choose and change the doctors on the panel is good for employers and insurers, as it gives them some measure of control over who's treating individuals who are injured on-the-job and, ultimately, how the claim is handled.

Unfortunately, this can be detrimental for injured workers. While some employers may choose well-qualified physicians who treat workers fairly, others may opt for doctors with reputations for keeping costs down by:

  • Minimizing workers' injuries
  • Failing to relate some or all of the injured worker's complaints to their on-the-job accident
  • Recommending low-cost treatment options, even if higher-cost treatments are more effective
  • Returning injured workers to work with restrictions too quickly
  • Assigning a low permanent impairment rating
  • Releasing injured workers from their care and sending them back to their regular job prematurely

Fortunately, knowledgeable attorneys with experience handling workers compensation cases can help injured workers choose a doctor from the panel who is more likely to listen to their concerns and treat them fairly.  If you are dissatisfied with the treatment being provided by your treating physician, your attorney may be able to get your care transferred to a new doctor.  Under Georgia law, you are entitled to a one-time change to another doctor on the employer's panel of physicians without obtaining prior approval.

Were You Injured on the Job?

Rechtman & Spevak is committed to helping injured Georgia workers receive the workers' compensation benefits they need and deserve. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation with one of our workers' compensation attorneys.