Who chooses the workers’ compensation doctor?

In Missouri, as in most states, the employer has the right to choose the doctor that will treat an injured employee. This has resulted in frustration for many employees. Often, injured employees are forced to travel to a different city for care, or the doctors selected are not very good, are unhelpful or even uncaring. Employers have a right to choose the doctor because it, in theory, enables them to keep costs under control and monitor the employee’s progress more easily. The reality is that many of the doctors selected have a high percentage of their practice devoted to workers’ compensation patients and those doctors are paid by employers and their insurance companies. Consequently, the doctors tend to be biased in favor of who is paying them because that is where they are getting their patients. That reality is reflected in the opinions those doctors routinely issue. They say things like, “the employee was not injured,” “the employee was injured, but is all better now,” “the employee still has some problems from her injuries, but they are not that bad,” “the employee does not need surgery,” “the employee needs surgery, but it is not because of the workplace accident,” “the employee is malingering.” You get the picture. The doctors craft their opinions to save the insurance company money so the insurance company will keep referring patients. There are exceptions, but they are rare.

So what does an injured employee do if they are trapped with a workers’ compensation doctor who is ignoring the reality of their situation? For purposes of immediate treatment, Missouri law permits an injured employee to petition the division of workers’ compensation for an order changing doctors if the employee’s life or health are being threatened because appropriate care is not being given. That will likely require the testimony of another doctor to say that a specific treatment is needed and that the employee’s health is being threatened without it. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you get to a doctor that will fairly and honestly assess your condition and determine what you need to cope with your workplace injuries.

At the St. Joseph, MO law firm of Taylor Siemens, our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys are ready to help you navigate the workers’ compensation system including any issues you may have with the doctors your employer has forced you to receive care from. Call us today at (816) 364-6677 for a free consultation.