Believe it or not, in many instances, the answer is IMMEDIATELY.
Unfortunately, many employers, insurance companies, and even doctors proceed under the misunderstanding that an injured work MUST UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES treat with a workers’ compensation doctor for the first 90 days after a work injury.
In reality, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act and Regulations impose a number of specific requirements on an employer and its insurance company which must be followed precisely before an injured work can be forced to seek medical attention with a specific healthcare provider or facility. For example, an employer must maintain a list of no less than six (6) healthcare providers which must be posted in a prominently visible location within the workplace. This list is often referred to the “workers’ compensation panel.” In addition to being posted, the “panel list” must consist of doctors and healthcare providers of varying specialties. The employer must also secure from the injured work a signed written acknowledgement form at the time she is hired and at the time she is injured on the job as evidence that the injured worker has received notice of the list and her rights under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws. There are additional rules and requirements but these are some of the more commonly cited sections.
What is most important to the injured worker is the fact that employers and their insurance carriers RARELY follow all of the requirements needed to prevent an injured worker from seeing his own doctor following a work injury. When the employer/insurer fails to meet all of the legal requirements, the injured worker is free to see his own doctor IMMEDIATELY and the workers’ compensation insurance company must pay for the treatment.
All too often the laws and regulations regarding workers’ compensation panels get abused and misrepresented to the harm of the injured worker. Injured workers can protect their rights by consulting with an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation matters IMMEDIATELY after they are hurt on the job. Failure to do so could result in the employer/insurer taking inappropriate liberties with the injured workers’ healthcare and recovery rights.
Michael A. O’Donnell, Esq.