I want to call your attention to an issue that may seem like a minor part of your workers compensation case but, in fact, could significantly increase your bargaining power. This issue has to do with the validity of your employer’s posted panel of physicians.
As I have discussed extensively on my web site, employers subject to the jurisdiction of the Georgia State Board of Workers Compensation are required to post a list of physicians at an accessible place on the work site, and they are required to explain to workers how to report injuries and obtain medical care from a panel doctor.
Georgia law at Code Section 34-9-201 sets out very specific requirements for what constitutes a valid panel of physicians. With limited exception, a valid posted panel must include at least 6 unaffiliated physicians, at least one of whom must be an orthopedist, and no more than 2 of which may be industrial clinics.
If the panel is not valid, the injured employee may choose any physician to serve as the authorized treating physician and the employer must pay for medical care provided unless and until the State Board orders otherwise.
Given the adversarial nature of the workers’ compensation system in Georgia and the anti-claimant biases displayed by many panel physicians, a failed panel can serve the interests of you, the injured claimant, by giving you control of your medical care.
Often, my clients advise me that when they are hurt, their human resources supervisor shoves a panel in their face and tells them to “choose a doctor.” What I am finding, however, is that many of these posted panels are not valid because the physicians listed on the panels have moved, changed phone numbers, retired, or joined the practice of another panel physician.
Given that almost everyone has a cell phone with a camera, I advise my clients to photograph (or photocopy) the posted panel for me to review. On more than one occasion, I am finding that my clients’ posted panels are invalid, and that at the very least I can use that argument to negotiate for a more independent and reasonable physician.
- As a rule, you are going to be much happier with the treatment provided by a doctor who does not depend on an insurance company for his business.
- It does not matter, by the way, if your employer fixes the panel after you accident – what is relevant is the state of the panel as of the minute you get hurt.
If you have been hurt on the job and want me to review the posted panel that your employer has shown you, please call me