Workers’ Comp: Finding a Doctor You Can TrustMarch 20, 2020
All doctors have a responsibility to be honest and treat their patients to their best ability, and some are better than others. However, your company incentivizes you to pick company-provided doctors who are less likely to address the severity of your condition and look out for your best interest.
It can be tempting to choose a company doctor, but keep in mind how vitally important your initial doctor is. In order to receive compensation at all, you’ll need an initial medical diagnosis. After your treating doctor diagnoses your condition, they direct all of your medical care (whether you need physical therapy or medications, for example), refer you to other specialists, decide your work restrictions, determine your level of permanent disability, and provide evidence for your case. All their decisions directly affect your recovery and benefits.
The rules for choosing your treating doctor vary from state to state, but under Louisiana workers’ compensation law, you’re entitled to choose your own physician: one per field or specialty.
However, no matter whether you take a company doctor or your own, you’re also required to have an examination by a physician whom the employer and workers’ comp insurance company provide and pay for. This examination is called a Second Medical Opinion (SMO) — and if you refuse it, your lost wage payments may be suspended temporarily. It’s important to note the SMO doctor does not treat you; it’s a one-time, short evaluation to give insurance companies a potential basis for denying benefits.
That’s why choosing your initial treating doctor is so important. Make sure you consider their level of experience and skill, area of specialization, and familiarity with your type of injury. You may want to ask about their understanding of workers’ comp claims; it may indicate their willingness to advocate on your behalf and accept your workers’ comp medical fee schedule. Their availability for appointments and proximity from your home are also fair considerations when choosing your treating doctor.
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