The workers’ compensation doctor has released me to return to full duty; however, I am still in a lot of pain, and I do not feel that I’ll be able to do my job. What options do I have?
It is simply a fact that some doctors are more sympathetic to the insurance companies and the employers and always seem to be eager to get employees back to work before they are really ready. Sometimes, it is even before figuring out what is really going on with an employee’s injuries.
By the same token, there are other doctors who are more sympathetic to the injured employees, and are less likely to return an employee to work until they are confident that all avenues of treatment and diagnostic testing have been appropriately explored.
If the workers’ compensation doctor has released you and declared you to be at maximum medical improvement (MMI), you are entitled to an Independent Medical Examination (IME) which the employer is required to pay for. We can help make sure that the doctor whom you see will give you a fair shake and a proper examination. Of course, while this process moves forward, your employer may seek to cut off your benefits, but if the Independent Medical Doctor agrees that you cannot return to your previous job, we may be able to allow you to retain your workers’ compensation benefits.
Under changes passed in the law in 2011, both sides must now agree to the IME doctor. We typically propose a list of doctors who we suggest to the comp carrier or their lawyers, in writing. After that, the defense has 14 days to act on our suggestions. If they fail to do so, we are free to file a motion with the Commission compelling the IME. We have a list of doctors who specialize in specific types of injuries that we believe are fairly impartial, skilled, and thorough in evaluating our clients in these circumstances.
Oftentimes, a thorough evaluation and clearly worded report can be the difference between you losing your comp benefits or retaining them and eventually reaching a satisfactory settlement.
But–in the meantime, if you have not reached maximum medical improvement, (MMI) and you are still in the “healing period”, your failure to show up at work after being released by your treating doctor might be considered an unjustifiable refusal to return to work, and could end up losing you your benefits. Under those circumstances, we recommend that you at least try to return to work, and give it a good effort. If you find you are unable to perform your duties, you should make an appointment to return to your doctor and explain exactly what was hurting you on-the-job and exactly what made it impossible to perform your job. If the doctor continues to be unsympathetic, it may then be time to ask the Commission for a change in treating physicians or at least an IME. We can assist you with that process.
You should know that it is much harder to obtain a change in treating physicians than it is to obtain an IME. Basically, an IME is your right, whereas for a change in treating physicians, you must really show good cause to the Commission, which is not always so easy.