Changing Your Doctor During Your Georgia Workers’ Compensation Case
One of the biggest challenge in a Georgia Workers Comp case is getting permission to change your treating doctor if the one the company sent you to is biased or just plain bad. There are a few ways to change doctors.
Come to an agreement between your lawyer and the other attorney. Your lawyer would then file a Form WC-200a with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation and you are good.
O.C.G.A. §34-9-201(b)(1) provides that, after the initial selection of a treating doctor, “The employee may make one change from one physician to another on the same panel without prior authorization of the board.”
These are the direct obvious ways. Below we deal with a few nuances to the situation and the options that may exist.
Choosing a Doctor When Your Claim is Initially Denied
If your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier outright deny your claim by alleging your injury or illness is not covered, you can go to any doctor of your choice for treatment. If the insurer later accepts your claim and acknowledges it is covered by paying workers’ compensation benefits – or, alternatively, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (GSBWC) rules your injury or illness is covered – you can choose any of the doctors who have been treating you as your authorized treating physician for your claim. You must, however, first notify your employer.
Switching Treating Doctors in a Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you want to change doctors during your workers’ compensation claim, there are certain procedures that must be followed if a sick or injured employee wants to change treating physicians during a workers’ compensation claim. The rules, however, depending on how the initial treating physician was chosen.
If the initial treating doctor came from the employer’s panel of physicians, an employee can simply switch to another physician on the panel. That being said, this can only be done once without needing to obtain approval from the GSBWC prior to changing physicians.
If your employer uses a workers’ compensation managed care organization (WC/MCO), you are required to follow its rules if you want to change treating doctors.
If you choose your own treating physician because the insurer denied your workers’ compensation claim from the start, or your employer did not provide their pre-authorized physicians (a “panel of doctors”) or WC/MCO options, you may change your doctors once without having to go through the panel or the WC/MCO.
Once you have changed your treating physician one time under the above rules, you can request that the workers’ compensation insurance carrier agree to another change. If you are unable to come to an agreement, you can then make a request to the GSBWC that they order the change of physicians. There is a specific form that must be completed to make the request, and a copy should be provided to the workers’ compensation insurance company and your employer. Notably, a Georgia employer may also request a change in treating physicians or treatment provided. But, do not worry, as the employee is afforded an opportunity to object. In fact, an employee or the workers’ compensation insurance company may request a hearing on that specific issue.
Workers’ Compensation Realities
Workers Comp lawyers are often a waste of money. Remember if the employer is paying your bills, you like your job and the injury is not that big of a deal, stay away from lawyers. Many are not honest and will encourage you to file just to get a fee. Weigh the pros and cons carefully.