When you are injured or become ill on the job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation, but it is vital to know the best way to seek treatment. You need to get the proper care for your illness or injury to ensure your future good health. Still, you want to be sure you are compensated with the maximum workers’ compensation benefits available to you.
Should You Seek Medical Attention Right Away?
When you sustain a work-related injury, it is crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible, regardless of the severity of your illness or injury. If you are showing symptoms of possible toxic exposure on the job, have an illness that you may have acquired while performing work duties, or have been physically injured while working, you should always be evaluated by a doctor at once.
The reason that it is better to seek medical attention sooner rather than later is two-fold. In relation to your workers’ compensation benefits, seeing a doctor right away helps to ensure that your employer and their insurance provider cannot argue that your injury or illness is not related to your job. The second and most important reason is that prompt treatment will increase your chances of a fast recovery.
You should never delay seeking treatment or assume that your injury is not serious, as this can be detrimental to your recovery. Putting things off can also diminish the coverage that your workers’ compensation will cover and may decrease the benefits for which you are eligible.
Should You Go to the Hospital or Your Primary Care Physician?
Several factors affect where you should go to seek medical treatment for injuries and illnesses acquired on the job. If you need immediate attention, it is imperative to go to the emergency room as soon as possible. If your situation is not an emergency, you can see a doctor outside of the hospital, but the rules regarding which doctor is covered vary from state to state.
In North Carolina, as in most other states, you must seek treatment from a doctor selected by your employer. You can see your own doctor in certain situations by getting approval from the North Carolina Industrial Commission by filing a Form 18. However, you will most likely need to see a doctor your company selects initially.
Choosing the Right Doctor Can Make a Big Difference
The doctors your employer and their insurance companies choose for you are technically supposed to look at your case objectively. However, they sometimes maintain mutually beneficial relationships with the employer’s insurance company who refers workers’ compensation cases to them. For this reason, it is always best to petition to see a doctor you are familiar with and trust so that you can be confident in the treatment you receive.
If you don’t have a primary care physician but wish to choose a doctor on your own, you will want to look for someone who has experience and a trustworthy reputation. This doctor will be an integral component in your workers’ compensation case, so doing your research and getting referrals from people you trust can be a vital tool.
The doctor who treats you will make decisions regarding the treatment you undergo for your diagnosis and will likely need to provide reports indicating when you may return to work. Their reports will also affect the benefits you are eligible for, which may include permanent or temporary disability payments. Keep in mind that in some cases, your doctor may also need to provide testimony regarding your case. They must be able to clearly explain how they came to their decisions. Making a wise choice of a properly licensed physician with the necessary credentials will help to ensure that your medical costs are covered.
Be Thorough and Honest With Your Doctor
The doctor who treats you for your workplace illness or injuries will have many tools at their disposal. However, it is still of utmost importance to report your symptoms accurately, detail the level of pain you are experiencing, and explain which activities you are having difficulty performing.
If you have sustained injuries that cannot be identified through x-rays, such as soft tissue damage, the details you provide to the doctor can be vital to their diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, you may have an injury that your physician will rely heavily on what you are feeling to decide upon treatment options. In these circumstances, keep the following tips in mind.
- Don’t make guesses. If your physician asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, simply tell them. You don’t want to speculate about the cause of your injuries, and you certainly don’t want to imply that you have recovered if you don’t know for sure.
- Don’t leave out any details. You should always communicate everything you can remember to your doctor, even if there are details that seem insignificant. Although something may not seem important to you, the doctor may need to know this fact as they plan your course of treatment. Even the smallest detail of your injury could grow into a bigger problem down the road.
- Be as accurate and honest as possible. When you talk with your doctor, you want to be sure to detail your case as truthfully as possible. You don’t want to downplay the situation, but at the same time, you should not exaggerate. Doctors can often see-through exaggerated symptoms, and you want to have a mutually trustworthy relationship with them.
Who Pays the Bills While the Claim Is Being Evaluated?
In most cases, your employer is required to cover all medical expenses until a decision is reached on your workers’ compensation claim. Once your case has been approved, your employer will need to pay for all the medical bills associated with your treatment.
If your claim for workers’ compensation is denied, you have the option to appeal. Consider, though, that you will need to pay for your medical costs in the meantime, then seek to have your expenses reimbursed by the insurance company. Other potential options include seeking a doctor who will treat you on a “lien basis” or applying for a temporary disability insurance program.
Get Help Ensuring Your Claim Is Covered
If you are overwhelmed by the details of navigating the Workers’ Compensation process, you are not alone. In many cases, it is vital to have an experienced, trusted lawyer on your side to help handle the details while you focus on your recovery. If you are seeking legal representation for your case, you can count on M. Reid Acree, Jr., Attorney at Law. Visit our website today to find out how we can help.