Brock Law Offices works with injured people all over the country, not just in Nebraska. A large part of our workers' compensation client base is made up of truck drivers, many of whom are over-the-road drivers who are often away from home for weeks at a time. One of the trends I have noticed, particularly among these types of drivers, is that many do not have an established primary care physician. Generally, they are healthy enough to have not needed this in their lives, or probably more often, they just don't have time and aren't home enough to establish this relationship. Unfortunately, not having a doctor who has treated you or an immediate family member in the past can lead to potentially unsuccessful results in your claim for workers' compensation benefits.
In Nebraska, an injured worker's right to choose and change doctors is governed by state statutes and rules. The rule is essentially that an injured worker must be provided notice by his or her employer of the right to choose a physician to treat their injuries. However, the doctor chosen must have treated the employee or an immediate family member before the accident occurred. If an employee does not have or does not choose such a doctor, then the employer may choose the doctor who will treat the injured employee. There are also certain situations, like major surgery, where the injured employee always has the right to choose their doctor.
Sometimes, the employer does not notify an employee about his or her right to choose a doctor. In this situation the rules do not apply and an employee generally has the right to choose any doctor. The problem, of course, is that employees usually have no idea what their rights are whether their employer provided notice of those rights or not, and will often feel pressured to go along to get along with their employer if they feel their job is at stake. It is also often the case that the claim has already gone in a negative direction at that point, if a company doctor has already provided an unhelpful opinion – i.e., “go back to work.”
Even if an injured worker does have an eligible doctor they can choose, many times employers will try to persuade or even intimidate that injured employee to waive their right and treat with a company-selected doctor. Don't let this happen. Don't allow your employer to decide who will potentially hold your future and that of your family in their hands. They are usually much more concerned about their own bottom line than your physical, financial and emotional health and well-being. The company's doctor is usually selected for a reason, and it is not because they deliver the best care. It is because they will save the company and their insurer money.
The very best way to preemptively protect yourself in this situation is to have an established relationship with a doctor you know and trust with your healthcare, and to choose that doctor to treat you for your work-related injury. I know this is particularly difficult for those truck drivers who are away much more often than they are home, but it is very important to protect yourself and your family.
Contact an experienced Nebraska workers' compensation attorney with knowledge of Nebraska choice of physician rules if you are concerned your right to choose your own doctor has been or may be violated.
Brianne Rohner Erickson
Workers Compensation Attorney