Learn about the vital role your authorized treating physician will play in your work injury case
If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness in Georgia, you are entitled to receive certain financial benefits for lost wages and medical care without incurring the cost of deductibles or copays. Under workers’ compensation law, your employer and its insurance company can control which physicians treat your condition.
By law, your employer must post a list of authorized treating physicians at the office or work site. Known as a “panel of physicians,” this list should include a minimum of 6 doctors. Each one represents 6 different medical practices.
Requirements for workers’ compensation panel of physicians
Georgia law requires that your employer explain your rights, including how you can use the panel of physicians after an on-the-job injury. While your employer or their insurance provider generally picks the list of doctors, you can choose which one of these physicians will provide your care.
In addition to having the names of 6 or more doctors, this panel of physicians must also include:
- One orthopedist and one “minority” doctor
- Employer’s workers’ compensation insurance firm information
- More than 2 industrial clinics
- Contact information for doctors
As the injured employee, you must go to one of the approved panel physicians for medical care. This person becomes your authorized treating physician (ATP). Your treating physician will supervise all care and treatment you receive. They also act as the liaison with other providers you may need to see.
Choosing your authorized treating physician
You have a right to choose a doctor from the list of authorized treating physicians. For your employer’s insurer to pay for the medical care you receive, treatment must come from 1 of the approved workers’ compensation doctors.
Generally, Georgia’s workers’ compensation system relies on a licensed doctor to serve as your ATP. The opinion of this doctor in medical narratives carries a significant influence on your workers’ compensation case.
As your primary physician, the ATP becomes the medical gatekeeper of the direction of your case. This doctor has total and exclusive control over the medical care you may receive.
They can provide whatever medical treatment is necessary that leads to a cure or relief from the medical issues you sustained from a work-related injury.
Furthermore, your authorized treating physician can refer you to other doctors for additional treatment when necessary. All treatment, whether from your ATP or another doctor, is paid for by your employer and their workers’ compensation insurer.
What’s the role of authorized treating physicians?
For nearly all workers’ compensation cases, the law gives the panel of physicians in Georgia certain privileges related to your care.
According to workers’ compensation law, an authorized treating physician has 2 crucial privileges that determine how your medical care is managed:
- Administering medical treatment and testing
- Referring patients to other specialists
Any authorized doctor from the workers’ compensation panel of physicians can treat your work injury. However, referrals for treatment by specialists can come from only 1 doctor.
Work status privileges of workers’ compensation doctors
Often, the injury you sustained at work either keeps you from performing any regular duties or restricts the work you are allowed to do. When limitations are involved, your authorized treating physician will have opinions about which duties you should or should not do.
For instance, your doctor can refuse to approve an unsuitable job offer.
Alternatively, your ATP may release you to regular work duty with no restrictions. If this happens, the insurance provider may suspend your workers’ comp benefits. Having a fair and unbiased ATP in these instances is very important to your case.
Permanent partial disability (PPD) privileges of workers’ comp doctors
In certain situations, the insurance company must ask for a permanent partial disability rating from your ATP. This rating means that you are able to work after an injury but not with the same skill and efficiency level prior to the injury.
Keep in mind that neither you nor the insurance company is obligated to accept the rating. If you believe the PPD rating is too low, you can see a different physician for a second opinion.
Changing your physician during treatment
Throughout the course of treatment, you may realize that the treating physician you originally chose is not working in your best interest. Fortunately, workers’ compensation laws allow you to choose another doctor from the panel of physicians.
Making this change doesn’t require the consent of your employer or the insurance provider. However, a change beyond this one does require approval from either your employer or the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Under certain circumstances, you may have to accept a change that the insurance provider and your employer want to make. Filing a motion in court might be your best legal option to change physicians.
Get the best medical treatment for your work-related injury
Taking the right steps when seeking and receiving medical care after a work-related injury or illness is very important. Receiving benefits covered by workers’ compensation depends on following what is required by state law.
Appropriate care from an ATP not only preserves your eligibility but also is also critical to your health and recovery. One way to ensure you are properly compensated is with legal guidance from experienced work injury lawyers.