If you have been injured on the job, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation payments for your injury. However, the Workers’ Compensation system can be complex and confusing. One of the most confusing things to workers who are going through the process of filing a claim is that your employer has the right to choose your initial treating physician. This may seem counter-intuitive to those who have a family doctor or have a regular doctor. Many people have asked if they are entitled to use their family doctor, or if they are able to change their treating doctor.
The answer is yes. You are permitted to request on change of physician. However, you should carefully consider your decision. In some cases, an employer’s insurance company has a relationship with a list of specific doctors. Going to one of them helps expedite appointments and streamlines communication. Nonetheless, if you are uncomfortable or believe the doctor is not providing the treatment you require, you should think about changing. It is important to remember, before doing so, you should speak with one of our experienced Fayetteville AR workers’ comp lawyers.
When you are injured on the job, you have several things to worry about. First, you want to get healthy as soon as possible to get back to work. Additionally, you want to ensure you receive workers’ compensation benefits to get you through this difficult period. Your treating doctor plays a vital role in both. If you have any questions about your worker’s comp benefits or if you are unhappy with the doctor your employer sent you to, call our law offices at (479) 316-0438.
In an Arkansas Workers’ Comp Case, Your Employer Picks Your Doctor
Following an injury, a worker is required to report their injury to their employer as soon as possible. After your employer receives the report of your injury, they are required to complete and file a First Report of Injury or Illness. However, under Arkansas Law, the company or the company’s insurance carrier can direct an injured or ill employee to a particular doctor for initial medical care. This is often troubling to workers who do not feel comfortable going to a doctor they are not familiar with, and who they may feel are only protecting the interests of the company. This can potentially negatively affect your entire Workers’ Compensation claim, as it is likely if the company doctor wants to send you to a specialist, the insurance carrier will also direct you to a particular doctor who again you may feel is representing the interests of the company.
However, it is your right under the Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Act to request a one-time change of physician. This means that you may file a petition to see a doctor that you would like to see, who may not be the doctor that the company or their insurance company initially directed you to. However, it is important that you file all the proper documentation and abide by all of the procedures, because if you fail to do so your medical care and expenses may not be paid. Sometimes you may find that your employer is willing to agree to a change of physician. However, if they are not willing to agree to a change of physician, then you may apply to the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Steps to Change Your Doctor in an Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Case
As stated above, you have the opportunity to request a different treating physician. The first step is to pick your doctor. Many people want to switch to their family practitioner. However, depending on your injury, you might consider seeing a specialist. It is important that whatever doctor you choose is in the insurance company’s network. You should contact the doctor and determine if they accept workers’ compensation patients – not all doctors do.
Next, you should tell your employer or insurance adjuster that you wish to change physicians. In some cases, an insurance company will voluntarily agree to a change.
If you have not engaged an attorney, you should speak with one at this time. Just because an insurance company has accepted the legitimacy of your injury and your change of doctor request does not guarantee that they will pay for anything other than your preliminary visit. Some adjusters are vindictive and will cut off benefits because you requested a switch. Having one of our skilled Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys by your side will help you quickly respond to such a situation.
Next, you need to officially request a change. To do this, you need to send a letter to the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission to request a change of physician. The letter should include your name, birth date, Social Security number, claim number, and the date of your injury. You should also include the name of your current doctor and the name of the doctor you want to continue your treatment. The request should be mailed to Commission at AWCC, PO Box 950, Little Rock, AR 72203-0950.
Typically, it takes the Commission four to six weeks to process a change of physician request. In most cases, you will receive a letter approving the request. Additionally, the Commission could also schedule your first appointment with the new doctor. However, you should wait until you hear from the Commission before seeing your requested physician. Once you are cleared to see your new doctor, be sure to have all of your medical records, test results, and other documents forwarded to your new doctor’s office.
Tips on Working with Your Original or New Doctor
Your relationship with your doctor is important in a workers’ compensation case. There are some things you could do to help improve your chances of getting the benefits you deserve.
Describe Your Accident on Your First Visit
You are seeing your doctor for a work-related injury. Therefore, you must describe your injury and how it occurred. One of the most common mistakes hurt workers make is not fully describing the details of their accident to their treating physician. If your doctor’s notes make no mention of the accident, then it becomes difficult to prove you are suffering from a work-related injury.
No Doctor/Patient Privilege
It is important to remember that in a workers’ comp case, there is no doctor/patient privilege. Your medical records will be available to the insurance adjuster. If the insurance company has a defense attorney, they will also have access to your medical records. You should be honest and stick to the facts of what occurred. If you exaggerate or make false claims, there will be a record of your statements.
Discuss Work Restrictions
You want your doctor to provide an opinion on your ability to return to work, including any restrictions that should be in place. You are trying to get back to work. However, you want to be sure that you are not being rushed back. There are times when an insurance adjuster pressures a doctor to recommend returning to work sooner than you are ready. This is one reason why it is important to have a doctor you feel you can trust.
Describe Every Injury in Detail
When you see your doctor, you want to provide a detailed description of every body part that was impacted by your injury. If something fell on your arm, but you are experiencing pain and discomfort in your back, be sure to mention it to your doctor. It is not your job to assess what pain is related to your injury. More importantly, you want the medical record to reflect every symptom you have.
Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions
You are seeing your doctor so that your condition will improve. If your doctor prescribes physical therapy or medication, it is important to follow through. The goal is to get back to work, not stay on workers’ compensation benefits. If the insurance company believes you are not adhering to the treatment your doctor is prescribing or missing appointments, your benefits will be terminated.
What Benefits Can I Receive for Workers’ Comp?
As your worker’s compensation lawyer will tell you, if you have been injured on the job you may be entitled to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation system. Arkansas Workers’ Compensation law provides for three different kinds of benefits.
- Medical Care Benefits: If you have been injured during the course of employment you may be entitled to all reasonably necessary services and medical treatments associated with your injury. This can include doctor’s visits, medication, hospital bills, lab tests. With these type of benefits, your employer will pay the medical provider directly.
- Rehabilitation services: Workers who are injured on the job can receive rehabilitation services as part of their Workers’ Compensation package. This can include physical therapy as well as vocational therapy.
- Cash payments: One of the chief concerns injured workers have is that they will not be able to pay their bills while they are recovering from their injury. The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act provides that you may receive temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability, permanent total disability, and death benefits.
Our Arkansas Workers’ Comp Lawyers are Available to Help With a Change of Doctor or Any Other Issue
However, the Workers’ Compensation process can be complex and difficult to navigate, and going to your company’s doctor may not always be the best choice for you medically as well as personally. Working with an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney in Arkansas can increase your likelihood of a successful benefits claim or appeal. If you have additional questions regarding Workers’ Compensation in Fayetteville or would like to see if our services are a match for you, contact our law offices today by calling (479) 316-0438 or go online.