Every year, thousands of workers here in Pennsylvania suffer harm while on the job, ranging from acute physical injuries to long-term damage caused by wear or exposure. It is these people that workers’ compensation helps protect.
After an on-the-job injury, however, the laws dictating an employee’s rights can be overwhelming. One common question we see: Can an injured worker choose their own doctor, or does the employer get to do so?
Initial options are limited
Generally speaking, a worker who was injured while on the job has a limited selection of doctors from which to choose if they want to remain eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Under the law, employers may post something known as a provider panel. This provider panel is a list of six doctors from whom injured employees can receive care.
If you get hurt while doing your job, you get to choose from any of the providers on this list. Your employer cannot order you to see one specific doctor, nor can the company prevent you from switching from one listed doctor to another.
In addition, you are only limited by the provider panel for 90 days following the date of your first visit. After that period is over, your provider options broaden.
3 key exceptions
If an employer does not have a provider panel posted according to the state’s regulations, then the worker has more freedom. In that case, the injured employee can seek treatment from any doctor and they can still remain eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
There is also an exception for emergency medical care. If there is a serious injury that requires immediate treatment, the employee can go to any provider, even if they are not on the provided list. Once that emergency situation is over, however, care must be received through one of the doctors on the provider panel.
Lastly, if surgery is required, the injured worker can generally select any surgeon, regardless of their inclusion on the list.
Work injuries are always difficult, and sometimes, it feels as though the law is not on the employee’s side. However, by being mindful of these rules, you can help make sure the workers’ compensation system covers the proper costs.