In every workers’ compensation claim, the injured worker’s treating physician wields a great deal of power. Their opinion can be used by your employer or their insurer to diminish your claim, force you back to work before you are physically able or outright deny your benefits.
Unfortunately, Alabama gives employers and their insurers the right to control which doctor you see — with only a small opening for the injured worker to assert their own will over the situation.
What’s the “panel of 4” in an Alabama workers’ comp claim?
If you’re unhappy with the authorized treating physician your employer chose, you have few options — but the law in this state does give you the one-time right to change physicians. To do so, you have to ask your employer for a list of — or “panel of four” — physicians from which you can choose.
When should you assert your right to a panel choice?
You need to decide when to use this option rather carefully. Here are some things to consider:
- You can only use this option once, so don’t use it rashly. If you take an immediate dislike to your authorized treating physician and request a panel option, you could be making a mistake. It’s often wiser to wait a bit and see how the treatment progresses before you make this call.
- You shouldn’t wait until your situation becomes toxic. Just like acting too fast, waiting too long can be detrimental to your case. When it becomes abundantly clear that your authorized treating physician is more concerned about your employer’s position (or the insurance company’s demands) than your health, you need to find different treatment.
If you do assert your right to a panel choice, you need to make sure that your employer or their insurer doesn’t try to subvert your claim by pushing you off to doctors in the same practice as your current treating physician — because that’s the same as no choice at all.
Asserting your rights to fair treatment and fair compensation isn’t easy when you’re injured and unable to work. Working with an attorney can help you achieve your aims.