In Virginia, when you get hurt on the job, your employer must provide you with three panel doctors you can choose from to seek treatment. The tough thing about this law is that those doctors are solely focused on getting you back to work as quickly as possible. That’s because they get a great deal of work from insurance company referrals.
The faster you return to work, the better it is for the insurance company because they’ll get more referrals. Essentially, the doctors service the insurance companies. The insurance company knows who is paying the bill. And for the injured worker, this is challenging because the doctor says you can go back, even when you may not be physically ready.
For injured workers, the best option often seems like going back to work and trying your best despite feeling ill or injured. If you don’t go back and try, your benefits with the company will end. But if you go back and try, you at least have a chance of keeping your benefits.
In short, Virginia workers who are cleared by their doctor to return to work must do so to maintain employment.
Cases When You Might Not Have to Return to Work When Your Doctor Clears You
There are some rare instances where employers do not provide the injured worker with a listing of panel doctors to choose from for their care. When this happens, the worker can go to whatever doctor they want to.
You should consult an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney before seeking a provider on your own even if your employer delays providing you a list of doctors..
What difference does it make if you see a panel doctor or your own doctor? Your doctor is focused on helping you get better. That doctor will wait to send you back to work when they are certain you’re ready for the activities required by your job
In contrast, the panel doctor is focused on getting you back to work as quickly as possible.
Many workers don’t have the luxury of choice, but if you do, it can be good for you.
Full Duty Versus Light Duty
Once your doctor releases you for full duty, it triggers a process with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. The insurance company will file with the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission to discontinue your benefits. If the insurance company files the documents with a copy of your doctor’s full duty release, the commission will approve and your benefits will end.
In some cases, your doctor might release you for light duty. This does not trigger the same process of the insurance company filing to end your benefits. You should continue to receive benefits until released to full duty. But the insurance company might begin a process of finding you a job that meets the restrictions your doctor placed on your work. This is known as vocational rehabilitation and can mean taking on responsibilities at work that were outside your normal responsibilities before your injuries.
Workers’ compensation can be complicated, as it involves insurance companies seeking to manage their expenses and your employer looking for ways to avoid disruptions in service by covering all positions despite your absence.
Connect With Our Virginia Workers Compensation Lawyers
To protect your rights throughout the workers’ compensation claims process, you should seek advice from an attorney. Your attorney will look out for your best interests and offer guidance on the best way to protect yourself and your long-term well-being while you heal from your injuries.
Geoff McDonald & Associates knows the nuances of Virginia law concerning workers’ compensation. Contact us now for a free consultation.