February 24, 2020

Posted Panel of Physicians Must be In View and Explained by Employer

One of the most important parts of your workers’ comp case relates to who will be your “authorized treating physician.” The opinion of your treating doctor is very important to the development of your case – if your doctor downplays your injuries and releases you back to work, you may lose your benefits, you may lose your job, and you may lose important leverage in your case.

The Georgia workers’ compensation statute gives the employer/insurer the first opportunity to direct your medical care. Code Section 34-9-201 provides that at a minimum that covered employers – any employer with more than 3 employees – must make available to employees a posted panel of physicians containing at least four independent medical providers. The Code Section also provides for something called a “conformed panel” containing ten physicians or a managed care organization approved by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.

In addition to maintaining a properly set out panel of physicians, the employer must make the panel accessible to employees and must explain how the panel works and the procedure for filing a claim.

If the panel does not exist, or if it is not accessible or if it is not explained, then the employer forfeits the right to control the medical care and you can go to any doctor for treatment and the employer will have to pay for the treatment.

An employer who does not have a panel can still controvert the claim but, as you might imagine, that is an uphill battle if the only on-going medical treatment in the case is from a friendly physician.

Posted panels are usually, but not always, printed on bright pink paper and may be posted in break rooms or near restrooms. The insurance defense bar recognizes the significance of the posted panel of physicians. One of the insurance defense firms that I frequently litigate against has published a paper presented to employers at a seminar – the subheading of the paper is “Solutions Which Will Keep Even the Most Atypical Claimant at Work!” Although this paper is written for the benefit of employers and their insurers, you as the claimant can learn a lot from it and I recommend it to you.
I frequently see examples of improper panels in many types of businesses. My dry cleaner, for example, has a pristine pink posted panel – with no physicians’ names printed on it. A local pizzeria near my house has a posted panel with two hospitals and one doctor – improper because it contains only three choices.

If you think that your employer did not have a proper posted panel at the time you were hurt, you can help your case by asking a co-worker to photocopy the panel or snap a digital picture of it.

[tags] posted panel of physicians, georgia workers compensation, O.C.G.A. Section 34-9-201 [/tags]

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Jodi Ginsberg

Attorney Jodi Ginsberg represents employees who are injured on the job and who need medical care and missed wage benefits available under Georgia's workers' compensation laws.

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