What to Expect at Your Workers’ Compensation Doctor’s Appointment
After seeking medical attention and informing your employer about a work-related injury, the next step in the workers’ compensation process entails selecting and visiting a physician. Under Virginia Workers’ Compensation Law, your employer is required to provide a list of at least three doctors. From this list, you are entitled to select a primary treating physician. If an employer fails to provide a list of doctors after being informed about a work-related injury, an injured employee is entitled to select their own physician.
Making a first-time visit to a physician can be a stressful experience, especially when work-related injuries are involved, as it can directly affect an individual’s income and earning potential, as well as the potential benefits that must be paid. However, being prepared for the process by understanding the following frequently asked questions and answers can help ease the experience, empowering you on your path to recovery from a work injury.
Schedule A Free Consultation – No Fee Unless You Recover
If you need help filing a workers’ compensation claim or appealing a denial, we invite you to call The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt to schedule a free consultation.
As a workers’ compensation attorney representing injured Virginia employees, firm-founding attorney Mark Hurt zealously advocates for clients.
Our firm represents workers’ compensation clients on a contingency-fee-basis. This means that we are only entitled to a fee if we recover compensation for you. Our fees in workers’ compensation cases typically cannot exceed 20% of the compensation obtained, regardless of the number of hours spent preparing and pursuing a work injury claim.
How Do I Prepare for My First Workers’ Comp Doctor’s Visit?
When setting up a first Virginia workers’ compensation doctor’s appointment, it is critical to:
- Check the physician’s website to determine if they are familiar with work-related injuries and understand the intricacies of occupational safety-related injuries;
- Inform their office that you are coming for a workers’ compensation evaluation;
- Fill out the patient questionnaire (many physicians offer online intake questionnaires);
- Provide your health status (e.g., a list of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins you take; family health history; allergies; etc.); and
- Compile health records (including referring physician office notes, a diary of physical injuries, and your workers’ comp claim number).
What Happens During an Initial Workers’ Compensation Doctor’s Appointment?
During an initial workers’ compensation appointment, a physician will evaluate an injury or illness and create a treatment plan based on the individual’s restrictions and needs. The treatment may consist of medicine, bed rest, physical therapy, surgery, or other treatment options.
With many injuries – such as the back, neck, and other muscle injuries – an important part of the evaluation will be assessing matters such as a range of motion and determining restrictions (such as the amount of weight that a person can lift). It is important during this examination to be completely truthful with the physician, and not to minimize your injuries. As an example, many of us are raised to “not complain” about pain and other injuries. Instead, we may feel like we should “just deal” with physical problems. This is not the way to go at this examination. You need to be completely truthful with the extent of pain, range of motion, and other issues that you are experiencing.
There are three critical reasons why not being completely truthful at this examination is a problem.
First – not being truthful about pain will not allow a proper diagnosis. If your back really does hurt by bending in a certain position, you should tell the physician not only that it hurts, but also how much it hurts. This will allow the physician to make a proper diagnosis of your injury, and also the extent of the injury.
Second – not being truthful can lead to further injury. If your back is injured such that you should be given light duty or time off and you don’t report the true nature of the pain to your physician, you may be cleared to return immediately to your job, which could result in making your injury more severe.
Third – many injuries can get worse over time. Suppose in the initial consultation you reported that you did not have much back pain, thinking that your injury would get better quickly. But instead of healing, your back pain increased. In a follow-up physician consultation, you now report significant back pain, even though you have been given time off from work (or placed on light duty).
Potentially, an insurance company could question why you are now experiencing severe back pain when you reported only a low amount of pain right after your injury. Did you do something on your own to aggravate your injury (which is not compensable under workers’ compensation statutes)? This is a claim that they may bring to try to minimize their liability to you.
What Course of Treatment is Being Prescribed?
The doctor should also explain the course of treatment, such as the amount of time an individual may be off work and the implications of using certain medications. If a physician fails to provide these types of details, it is critical to ask, as injured workers should always be apprised of the particulars of their condition and case.
For example, a physician may prescribe light-duty restrictions, which limit the ability to perform certain work tasks. If this occurs, injured worker needs to know so they could promptly inform their employer, who will be tasked with finding appropriate accommodations. Alternatively, if a light-duty position is not available, it may be necessary to attempt to find other employment for the length of the restriction.
Do I Have to Follow the Treatment Plan from My Workers’ Compensation Doctor?
If an injured worker fails to follow an approved treatment plan, their Virginia workers’ compensation benefits could be stopped. For this reason, it is critical to adhere to the prescribed treatment, including attending any follow-up appointments, physical therapy, and specialists visits.
What Types of Benefits Are Available for Work-Related Injuries in Virginia?
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning any worker injured on the job (regardless of whether they were partially at fault for an accident) may qualify for benefits.
If you or a loved one suffered a legitimate workplace injury, you might be entitled to compensation for:
- Authorized healthcare visits;
- Authorized medically necessary procedures and care;
- Mileage Reimbursement (for travel to and from physician visits);
- Temporary Partial Disability (TP) – If a worker is allowed to return to employment with restrictions, he or she may be entitled to compensation to supplement any loss of earnings caused by the restriction);
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD) – If an employee is ordered off work by a physician, then the worker may be entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly wages (calculated based on earnings from the 52 weeks before the injury). However, benefits are not payable until the eighth day of disability;
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) – If a doctor finds that an injury has reached a state of maximum medical improvement (meaning a condition is not expected to improve, the physician may call for a possible impairment rating. If an injury victim receives an impairment rating over 0% to a qualifying extremity, they may be entitled to PPD benefits; and
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD). If an injury permanently stops a person from working, he or she may be eligible for PTD.
Schedule A Free Consultation with Experienced Virginia Workers’ Comp Attorney Mark Hurt
Navigating Virginia workers’ compensation claims can be challenging, but as an experienced workers’ comp lawyer, Mark Hurt can be by your side through every step of the process, ensuring that you or your loved one obtains the appropriate treatment and everything to which you and your family are rightfully entitled.
If you were injured at work, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your rights and options for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. When you hire our workers’ compensation firm, you will never have to worry about paying a fee unless we recover benefits on your behalf. Call now to get started.