With more than 145,000 workers compensation claims annually in New Jersey, dealing with a doctor appointed to conduct an exam can be stressful for many. If you’ve been injured on the job in New Jersey, your employer or its insurer may refer you to a doctor of its choosing for an independent medical examination in order to qualify for workers' compensation benefits. It’s important to know how an independent medical exam works and what to say to your workers compensation doctor to protect your rights and your claim.
Who Are Workers Compensation Doctors?
Workers compensation doctors are typically chosen by your employer’s insurance company to conduct an independent medical exam. The doctor is supposed to be a neutral party, but it's likely that you are not the only patient the insurance company has asked this doctor to examine. So, whether or not the bias may be intentional, there is an inherent benefit for the doctor’s opinion to somewhat benefit the insurance company.
While you may receive ongoing medical care from your own primary or specialist caregivers, an independent medical exam is like a second opinion for the insurance company. It’s also worth noting that during this exam there is no expectation of the normal doctor-patient relationship. This means that nothing you say to each other falls under doctor-patient confidentiality. Things you say or do in the doctor’s office may be used during legal proceedings in your workers’ compensation case.
Tips for What to Say to Your Workers Compensation Doctor
- Be honest about what you’re experiencing. Don’t exaggerate or downplay. While it’s tempting to exaggerate your symptoms and injuries, doing so can have negative consequences down the line. If the insurance company believes you are lying, it can put your workers’ comp benefits at risk. Tell the truth about your symptoms, prior injuries and conditions in a factual manner.
- Be clear and precise when describing your current limitations at work. Workers compensation doctors are attempting to answer questions like, is currently recommended treatment or testing really necessary?, will you be able to return to work, when and under what restrictions? Make sure to describe the demands of your position in a clear way and describe in what ways your injury is limiting your ability to perform the job. You should also tell your workers comp doctor about any concerns you have with returning to work. If you return to work too early or accept a light duty job, you could be putting yourself at risk.
- Be positive. Express your desire to get well and make sure to keep a positive attitude throughout the appointment. Don’t speak negatively about your employer. It's also important to show up on-time -- even early -- for your appointments. If you continually miss appointments, that could be grounds for denial of benefits. Remember that notes and visit summaries will be used as evidence for approval or denial of claims.
What If You Disagree with Your Workers Compensation Doctor?
If you disagree with the workers comp doctor or insurance company, your best course of action is to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer will be able to help you protect your rights and benefits by filing formal objections, scheduling a deposition to question the doctor on the matter, or possibly requesting another examination with a different doctor.
At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we are dedicated to assisting clients throughout New Jersey and New York with their workers’ compensation cases. We have years of experience and the extensive resources you need to secure a fair case result. Filing a workers compensation claim does not mean you will be compensated fairly. Contact us today for a free consultation.