If you have had a workplace injury and your employer sent you to a doctor they chose, it is important that you act quickly to obtain a doctor who is on your side. Your doctor and his or her diagnosis lay the foundation for your workers’ compensation claim.

This means that having the right doctor can be the difference between getting your medical bills and wage loss paid or getting your claim denied.

Such an important decision should not be left up to your employer. Employers will try to protect themselves from workers’ compensation claims to avoid increased insurance premiums. A successful workers’ compensation claim may also draw attention to unsafe work environments, which could result in workplace safety penalties. Ultimately, your employer has many reasons to try to protect the company and will not have your best interest at heart when choosing a doctor.

Know Your Right to Choose

Under Minnesota law, employees have the right to choose their physician if they are not part of a managed care plan. We often see employers that tell their employees that they have to go to their doctor or else they don’t get benefits. This is simply incorrect.

There is nothing more personal and important than your physical health, and your employer should not be given the right to make these very personal decisions. Almost as important as your physical health is your financial health. Most of us cannot afford to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills and weeks of lost wages. Without the right doctor, both your physical and financial health could be devastated. If your employer is pressuring you to see a doctor they selected, you are will be far better off choosing your own doctor.

However, before you make a change to a new doctor, you must first make sure that changing your primary physician complies with the workers’ compensation rules.

Rules and 60-Day Deadline

Minnesota workers’ compensation requires employees follow the workers’ compensation rules. Under these rules, a doctor becomes your “primary” doctor after you have seen him or her only twice. Once you have established a primary doctor, you must be careful to properly follow the administrative rules when changing doctors.

If you change doctor without following these rules, your employer may no longer have to pay for your medical bills! Here are the basics of what you need to know and additional resources:

Employees can change their primary physician one time within 60 days from starting their medical treatment. However, after 60 days, it is much harder to change physicians, and even impossible in some circumstances. For example, the rules require employees to get employer, insurer, or judge approval to change their physician after 60 days. To learn more about these rules, see Minnesota Administrative Rule 5221.0430.

If your employer or their insurer is pushing you to a doctor or clinic of their choosing, we highly suggest immediately seeking the advice of an attorney for two reasons. First of all, as mentioned, there is a time component involved here and an attorney can assess where you stand and possibly get a doctor change approved even after the deadline. Secondly, in our experience an employer recommended doctor is a major red flag. Employers and work comp insurance companies who try to influence medical care tend to be the kind of companies who will do everything they can to deny you the benefits you have coming to you.  Therefore, it’s better to have someone on your side as early as possible.