This is a question that I hear occasionally. Can I choose a different doctor to treat my work-related injury? In fact, I just had one of my workers’ compensation clients call me the other day and ask me if he can switch doctors, which, as a workers' comp lawyer, prompted me to answer this question for the benefit of other injured workers in Massachusetts.
You Have the Right to Select Your Preferred Doctor
The answer to whether an injured worker in Massachusetts can switch doctors to treat their work-related injury is YES. Under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act, the injured worker has a right to choose their own doctor to treat their work-related injury or health issue. Generally, after being hurt on the job, the employer will have you seen or evaluated by their preferred provider first. After that, however, injured workers can select their own treating physician or specialist.
Things to Remember When Choosing a Doctor for Workers' Comp in Massachusetts
You Don’t Have to Stick With a Doctor You’re Not Happy With
Sometimes, an injured worker may not be happy or confident with the doctor or specialist they chose. Perhaps, the treating doctor is recommending one course of treatment, and the injured worker is not confident in that suggestion. That was the reason my client called the other day. He was hurt on the job in Marlborough, Massachusetts, when he was struck by a passing vehicle in a work zone. He has been attending physical therapy for months and not getting any better. In fact, he feels like he’s getting worse. He explained this to his doctor, but the doctor just told him to continue with physical therapy. This client wanted to know if he could switch doctors or does he have to stay with this doctor he’s not happy with. In this situation, he absolutely can switch to a new doctor.
Or, maybe the treating doctor has released the worker back to work or released an injured worker back to work with restrictions. This can be detrimental to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim. If you feel that the doctor’s opinion about your work ability is wrong, you can and should seek a second opinion from another doctor.
Be Leery of a Doctor Chosen by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company
In other situations, an injured worker may end up treating with a doctor or health care provider that was recommended or selected by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. This usually happens to an injured worker who does not have a workers’ compensation attorney to properly advise them. Our Framingham workers’ compensation attorneys typically advise against our clients treating with a doctor selected by the insurance company. Do not confuse this with attending an independent medical examination arranged by the workers’ compensation attorney. An injured worker must attend an independent medical examination.
It’s concerning when the insurance company wants an injured worker to use their doctors. Insurance companies may want you to use a doctor they know has a reputation for keeping medical costs low and/or release an injured worker to work full duty or with restrictions. This creates a financial incentive for the insurance company.
Remember, in Massachusetts, the workers’ compensation insurance company is responsible to cover the cost of reasonable and medically necessary treatment of a work-related injury. A doctor known for recommending conservative, nonsurgical treatment can usually keep the cost of medical treatment low for insurance companies as opposed to a doctor that may recommend an expensive, but necessary surgery. Similarly, if an injured employee is out of work and collecting weekly disability benefits, the sooner a doctor releases him or her back to work, the sooner the insurance company can either terminate or modify the weekly disability benefits. In both scenarios, the insurance company saves money, which is typically their goal.