Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | September 27, 2022
The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation provides essential benefits to employees. If you are injured on the job, you don’t need to worry about how you will prove your employer was at fault because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.
One of the drawbacks of workers’ compensation is that damages are limited mainly to medical expenses and lost earnings. Another disadvantage is that you have limited options in selecting the doctor who will treat you.
The Panel of Physicians
If you need medical treatment for a workers’ compensation injury, you cannot choose your family doctor to diagnose or treat you. Instead, you must select from among a panel of about 6 to 10 physicians appointed by your employer (the “panel of physicians”). Your employer must post the names of these physicians at the employee worksite. Your employer must also explain your rights and how to access the panel of physicians if you suffer an injury.
If the panel of physicians is valid, but you are not satisfied with your doctor, you can only change your doctor once. The doctor you choose must also be on your employer’s panel of physicians. Your doctor can refer you to other doctors for testing, physical therapy, surgery, counseling, etc.
How Much Choice Do You Really Have?
Georgia workers’ compensation law allows you to choose your doctor, but only from among the panel of physicians. As a practical matter, you might have very little choice. Suppose, for example, that you suffer a back injury. There might be only one doctor on the panel of physicians qualified to treat your malady.
Why It Matters
The doctor you “choose” to treat you is an important figure in your workers’ compensation claim. This doctor will issue medical opinions affecting the amount of workers’ compensation benefits you qualify for.
You need a doctor who will provide an objective opinion, but how can you trust a doctor your employer recommended? After all, it is in your employer’s interest to minimize the value of your claim. It is in the doctor’s interest to please your employer for the sake of future referrals. This potential conflict of interest is one reason you might need a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Accusations of Malingering
Malingering is faking or exaggerating symptoms to receive benefits to which you are not entitled. Do false accusations of malingering occur? Yes, sometimes. A doctor who is essentially working for your employer might falsely accuse you of malingering. If the accusation sticks, you might not only lose eligibility for future benefits but also have to pay back benefits you have already received.
When You Can Choose Your Own Doctor
You can choose your own doctor under the following circumstances::
- Your employer does not post a panel of physicians at the workplace;
- The panel is defective (it has only one doctor, for example); or
- Your employer fails to accurately explain your rights.
Under any of these circumstances and certain others, you might need a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you enforce your rights.
Exiting the Workers’ Compensation System and Filing an Ordinary Personal Injury Lawsuit
Suppose you qualify to file an ordinary personal injury lawsuit rather than a workers’ compensation claim. Premises liability, where you sue the owner of real estate for an injury caused by a dangerous condition on the property, might qualify you to file a personal injury lawsuit. You would need to prove the defendant was at fault.
Under these circumstances, you can also seek a private settlement. Either way, you can choose your own doctor, although the defendant might also demand that you submit to an independent medical exam (IME).
A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help You Optimize Your Claim
Even though workers’ compensation claims do not go to court, you still have the right to hire an attorney to represent you. Depending on the size of your claim, a Savannah workers’ compensation lawyer might drastically increase the size of your compensation. Although no ethical lawyer will guarantee specific results, it might make sense for you to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Contact the Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Hasner Law, P.C. For Help
We serve in Fulton County, Chatham County, and its surrounding areas: