Under Missouri Worker Compensation laws, injured workers are entitled to three (3) benefits, including appropriate medical treatment. While injured workers have the right to have all of their medical treatment and rehabilitation paid for, it is the employer’s insurance company who will decide which doctor and medical facility will treat the injured worker. This is called “authorized treatment” and means that the injured worker is prevented from going to their choice of doctor.
It has been my experience in handling Missouri Workers’ Compensation over the last 20 years that the choice of medical care can lead to problems for the injured worker. This is because the level of care is often less than what you might expect. Because the insurance company is footing the medical bill, the chances are that the insurance adjuster is going to send the injured worker to an “occupational health” doctor. These doctors contract with the insurance company and agree to substantially discount their rates in exchange for referrals of injured workers. “Occupational health” doctor’s positions are entry level positions and it is common for these type of doctors to lack the qualifications and experience to properly diagnosis and treat patients.
For instance, I know of a recent case where the injured worker was diagnosed with a shoulder injury. After several months of “authorized treatment”, including a shoulder MRI, the patient continued to have persistent shoulder pain which prevented the patient from returning to work. Finally, after an attorney got involved, the insurance company authorized a neck MRI. This neck MRI revealed 2 herniated discs in the cervical spine which were causing radiating pain to the shoulder. From there, the patient was authorized to go to a competent orthopedic surgeon who was able to treat the injury appropriately.
As is obvious, in the above case, the “occupational health” doctor botched the initial diagnosis and caused a substantial amount of damage to both the injured worker and the employer’s insurance company.
Although the primary benefit of legal representation in a Missouri Workers’ Compensation claim is to obtain a fair and full disability award to the injured worker, an attorney who is well-versed in workers compensation law can also help police the medical treatment and rehabilitation efforts. Ultimately, the goal is to get the injured worker the best medical and financial recovery. When insurance companies try to cut corners to serve their own best interests, it pays to have an attorney who is concerned with all aspects of the case, including the progress of medical treatment and rehabilitation