Prepare for Your Post-Accident Doctors Appointments
In many ways, Georgia’s workers compensation system defies common sense. You may suffer significant damage to your body but the workers’ comp law says you cannot sue your employer for negligence. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation can hear disputes but cannot render a verdict that concludes a case with a cash award.
Perhaps the strangest feature of the workers’ compensation system relates to the provision of medical care. You are hurt, yet your employer has the right to force you to accept medical care from a doctor of their choice. Further, the doctors who typically appear on posted panels are often highly biased in favor of your employer’s insurance carrier.
In a non-workers’ compensation setting, you may consider your doctor as a trusted authority, in whom you can confide the most intimate details of your state of health. In a workers’ compensation setting, however, the doctor will report his findings directly to the insurance adjuster and, in many cases, his recommendations will be more in line with the insurance company’s goals than in restoring your health.
The point here is not to bash doctors whose names appear on posted panels. Some of these doctors are fine practitioners who will offer reasonable medical care. You must keep in mind, however, that medical care does not offer absolutes. You could see three different physicians, one after the other, and receive three different treatment plans. One doctor might recommend physical therapy and massage, another might offer injections and pain pills, and a third might recommend surgery.
I encourage my clients to accept the fact that in a workers’ compensation setting, most posted panel doctors will take a very conservative approach – that is, the will often suggest rest, ice or heat and a “wait and see” attitude. This is usually the least expensive approach and will often result in a rapid “return to full duty work” release.
Identify All Areas of Bodily Damage When
You Speak to Your Posted Panel Doctor
How can you protect yourself when dealing with a medical treatment system that is only partially focused on getting you better? I advise my clients they do have control over what appears in their medical record.
Specifically, when you meet your posted panel doctor, you should offer specifics about what happened to your and exactly where you hurt. For example, if you fall off a scaffold and hurt your neck, lower back and tailbone, it is not sufficient to report to your doctor that “I hurt my back.” You must specifically note that you hurt your neck, your shoulder, your lower back and your hips. You should also describe your accident in detail and you should prepare to answer these questions before you enter the doctor’s office.
If you do not identify each and every part of your body that is hurt, the insurance company may agree to pay only for treatment of the part of your body that was reported as injured. I have seen many letters written by insurance adjustors to doctors stating specifically that the doctor is to treat the lower back from the L4 disc through the S1 disc only and that the insurance carrier will not pay for or authorize treatment in the cervical spine (neck), shoulders or right leg.
When I begin my representation of a client, I spend a great deal of time discussing the nature and extent of your injury. If I am retained early enough I may supplement my client’s first report of injury to include claims of damage to parts of the body not originally identified by the injured worker. I also know enough about work accidents and medical issues to ask the right questions of my client so that I can better protect my client’s interests.