When you’re injured at work and hurting, you need to obtain medical treatment as quickly as possible – preferably from someone you trust.
In New Jersey, however, your employer holds most of the cards when it comes to selecting your care under workers’ compensation. Here are the basics you need to know:
You don’t have to wait on your employer to seek emergency care
If you have an acute injury and you think you need immediate treatment, you don’t have to wait on your employer to give you a list of acceptable medical providers. That’s basically the only time you can fully choose your own care.
Just make certain that you notify your employer as quickly as you can that you sought emergency services for your condition and be specific about why you couldn’t wait on an office visit with your employer’s chosen provider.
You do (usually) have to pick your regular treating physician from your employer’s list
Your employer could have a specific clinic or practice it uses for injured providers, a list of preferred providers or even an “in-house” physician or medical team. Whatever the case, that’s who you have to use – unless your employer refuses to turn over the information you need to get an appointment.
In those situations, you can seek independent medical care from a physician of your choice.
You can still protect yourself from an “employer-friendly” doctor
Let’s face it: The vast majority of doctors who make an employer’s list of preferred providers don’t get there by being overly sympathetic to the injured employee. It’s wise to protect yourself from inappropriate attempts to devalue or deny your claim.
You can do that by documenting your symptoms in a diary that you bring with you to each visit and carefully complying with all reasonable treatment recommendations, like physical therapy and chiropractic care (even if you have doubts it will help).
Despite the flaws in the system, you have a right to medical care and replacement wages (along with other benefits) after a workplace injury takes you down. If your employer (or the doctor they’ve chosen), isn’t playing fair, it may be time to seek legal assistance.