Can I Choose My Own Doctor Under Workers’ Comp?
When you get injured on the job, one of the first things you should do is see a doctor for treatment. However, in North Carolina, you also need a workers’ compensation attorney as well to help you carefully protect your legal rights.
If you see the wrong doctor, you could lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits. This could mean that you will have to bear the financial costs of your work injury for months, if not years, to come.
North Carolina Lets Employers Choose Their Employees’ Workers’ Comp Doctors
Under North Carolina law, employers have the right to choose the doctors who treat their employees who file for workers’ compensation. Some employers have an on-site doctor, and those that do can direct their employees to this doctor for treatment.
But, even if your employer does not have an on-site doctor, your employer can still tell you where you can go for care of a work-related injury. As the North Carolina Industrial Commission explains:
“If you do not have access to an on-site health provider, your employer may have instructed you to present yourself to a designated health care office in case of work related injuries. If appropriate to the seriousness of your injury, report to that facility.”
Some employers choose a “designated health care office” directly while others leave it to their workers’ compensation insurance companies to choose. In either case, seeing your own doctor when you aren’t allowed to do so can lead to loss of eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.
When Employees Can Choose Their Own Doctor Under Workers’ Comp
Per the North Carolina Industrial Commission, employers and their workers’ comp insurers have the right to provide and direct medical treatment for employees who get hurt on the job. This includes selecting the doctor workers are required to see in most – but not all – cases.
You may be able to select your own doctor after a work-related injury in the following situations:
- Your employer does not have an on-site doctor or designated health care provider;
- Your employer did not properly instruct you to see its on-site doctor or a designated health care provider;
- Your employer ignores your injury report or refuses to provide you with information about its designated health care provider;
- Seeing your employer’s designated health care provider is not “appropriate to the seriousness of your injury” (i.e., if you need emergency medical care);
- You obtain approval from your employer or the North Carolina Industrial Commission to seek a second opinion from a doctor of your own choosing.
Seeing an unapproved doctor can make you ineligible for workers’ compensation. If possible, you should try to speak with a lawyer about your options before seeking medical treatment.
If you have already seen an unapproved doctor for treatment, you should contact a lawyer promptly. There is a good chance that your employer and/or its workers’ comp insurer will fight your workers’ comp claim.
Making Sure You See the Right Doctor for Your Work-Related Injury
Given the importance of seeing an approved doctor in most cases, how can you make sure you see the right doctor for your work-related injury?
After suffering a workplace injury, your first step is generally to report the injury to your employer. The one major exception to this is if you need emergency care. If your injuries constitute an emergency, you should call 911 and go to the hospital right away.
Once you report the work injury (whether immediately after it happens or once you have received emergency medical attention), your employer should refer you to an approved doctor or tell you that you can choose where to go for care.
If you have any trouble finding out where you can go for treatment or if you are uncomfortable reporting a work injury on your own, a lawyer can help. You should not put this off, as any unnecessary delays can also make it much more difficult to collect workers’ compensation.
Injured Employees Need to Be Careful When Seeing an Approved Doctor
If you are required to see an approved doctor for treatment of your work injury, you need to be cautious here as well. Unfortunately, the doctors selected by employers and insurance companies do not always have their patients’ best interests in mind.
An approved doctor will try to get you back to work as quickly as possible. While this can be a good thing, it can also mean sending you back to work before you are fully healed. An experienced Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyer can help manage your care and make sure you receive the full treatment and benefits you deserve.
The philosophy at the Whitley Law Firm is one of wholehearted care. We make it a priority to get to know our clients fully so we can provide not only quality legal representation but the support and guidance they need.
If you have been injured at work, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Many workers and their families feel like they are walking a tightrope when it comes to seeing a doctor, making a claim, and more.
The Whitley Law Firm has extensive experience with workers’ compensation claims. Our team can help you navigate the process of finding the right doctor and seeking a second opinion examination, as well as ensuring you get the full benefits you deserve.
Please call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000 today to speak to a Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyer. Our attorneys serve clients throughout North Carolina. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help.