For many workplace injuries, particularly occupational diseases, symptoms of an injury develop over time. Discomfort or pain appears gradually, eventually causing a worker to seek treatment from a personal physician or trusted medical professional. Often it is only after several visits to a doctor that an employee realizes that a medical problem is work-related.
After an employee files a workers’ compensation claim, medical treatment can suddenly change. Often times employees will be required to visit the doctors identified by the workers’ compensation insurance, or the worker’s employer. This can be a shocking transition for employees who have developed a trusting relationship with their personal physician.
Workers’ Compensation Treatment in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, because employers are responsible for providing medical care to employees who are injured on the job, employers are also entitled to pick the medical professional or medical group that they authorize to provide treatment to the injured employee. This means that employees are typically referred to “the company doctor.”
The company doctor can take many forms, depending on the employer’s medical plan. This can be
- an in-house physician if the company is particularly large
- a local hospital or medical practice
- a walk-in clinic
- a general practitioner practicing on his own
The only requirement under New Jersey law is that the employer furnish medical services that can promptly “cure and relieve” the worker’s injuries and restore the worker to a condition where he or she can work again.
If you are dealing with a specialized injury, New Jersey’s workers’ compensation provides that you will likely have to get a referral from your initial treating physician in order to see a specialized doctor or get special diagnostic care.
Employees typically can only see their own personal physicians in two scenarios: (1) they receive special authorization from their employer to continue to receive care from an existing physician or to see a personal doctor or (2) the employer fails to provide the necessary care. In this case, New Jersey law permits the employee to seek out necessary treatment and service which the employer must later reimburse.
Dealing with the Company Doctor
For many employees, the prospect of being directed to an employer’s doctor raises serious suspicions about the quality of care, and for good reason. Employers have a clear financial interest in minimizing the amount of medical care that they are required to pay for, which often means minimizing the injury that a worker is experiencing.
While physicians who are provided by an employer usually do not work directly for the employer, employers are often incentivized to pick physicians who are likely to act favorably for them. In most cases, when you are offered employee medical care, you will be offered several physicians to choose from, rather than one specific doctor. This means you have some opportunity to shop around for a doctor that you like, and that the doctors are not all directly affiliated with your employer.
However, some employers certainly try to offer physicians who are less likely to believe that you are seriously hurt, or who are more willing to try to find other explanations to blame a worker’s condition on. While doctors, like all professionals, have a duty to be honest and do their best in treating patients, some doctors do this better than others.
Where you are limited to your employer’s doctor, the best thing that you can do is act as your own zealous advocate. This means researching your condition, keeping an eye out for signs that your doctor is biased or is not treating you fairly, and seeking a second opinion when possible. If you feel your doctor is trying to force you back to work early, or denying you necessary treatment, fight back. In particularly egregious situations, you may consider raising the issue with your state medical board.
New Jersey Attorneys Guiding You Through the Workers’ Compensation Process
For many workers, dealing with an injury, time off work, and the complicated workers’ compensation system can be very overwhelming. It may feel like the deck is stacked against you or that no one is acting in your best interest. When you are doing your best to stand up for yourself, but can’t get the results you are seeking, it may be time to consider a workers’ compensation attorney.
At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, our workers’ compensation attorneys can help you with both the process of filing a claim, and dealing with your employer’s doctors even after a claim is approved. Our priority is always making sure you receive the medical treatment that you need and the compensation that you deserve.
For your convenience, we have four offices in New Jersey (Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, and Hamilton) open 8:30 AM until 5:30 PM Monday through Friday. We also are happy to accommodate those who may need evening or weekend appointments, and, in many cases, can come to your location if that is more convenient.
The law firm of Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading firms in the area of workers’ compensation. Petro Cohen received the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell – the world’s foremost authority on law firm credentials – in Professional Excellence and Ethical Standards and Legal Ability.
In addition to the firm’s stellar reputation, the department head for the workers’ comp team, Frank Petro, is respected locally, regionally, and nationally as a leading attorney in this specialized field. He has been recognized as an outstanding attorney by Best Lawyers® for 25 consecutive years and by Super Lawyers® for 15 consecutive years. Moreover, he has achieved a rating of “Superb” on the leading lawyer-review website, AVVO®, the highest achievable rating.
Along with Stephen M. Matarazzo, Suzanne Holz Meola, Terri Hiles, Steven Lubcher, and Daniel Rosenthal, the workers’ comp team has more than 100 years of combined experience, having successfully handled thousands of litigated workers’ compensation cases throughout New Jersey. This experience and winning track record means that you have a New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer who will work hard for you.
For more information or to find out more about your options, contact us online or at (888) 675-7607.