Good quality medical care and honest opinions about the care are essential for a worker to receive proper benefits. Len Jernigan, a colleague of our firm from North Carolina, has written one of the best articles I have ever encountered on dealing with doctors. This is a good informative piece for injured workers, their families and professionals working with these cases. We face all of the problems discussed in this article on a daily basis in NE and IA.
A doctor’s opinion is crucial to every workers’ compensation claim. Most doctors give honest and rational opinions. As we all know, however, there are some physicians who have a different agenda and either do not take the time to properly evaluate a patient or they intentionally downplay the potential seriousness of the injury. For attorneys working on a workers’ compensation case, the following steps may help in the search for the truth.
(1) Check the doctor’s credentials.
It is a strange but true fact that some experts have falsified their curriculum vitae. If a physician has lied about his qualifications, his expert opinion just went out the window. One way to verify credentials is to check the American Medical Association’s web page. Select “Doctor Finder” and then follow the instructions until you get to “Find a Physician” and type in the name, address and zip code. If you are seeking a specialist, a doctor certification can be checked by phone with the AMA. For medical doctors call (800) 776-2378. For osteopathic doctors call (800) 621-1773, ext. 7445.
(2) Check disciplinary records.
According to the Federation of State Medical Boards 4,432 disciplinary actions were taken against 3,880 physicians in 1996. There are approximately 650,000 licensed physicians in the United States. The Federation is responsible for promoting high standards for licensure and practice, and serves as the primary center for collecting, monitoring and reviewing actions taken against physicians. (A full report can be obtained by calling (817) 868-4000. The report is also available on their web site. Sidney Wolfe, a physician who is director of the Public Citizens Health Research Group, a consumer watchdog organization, has analyzed this document and his report can be obtained by calling (202) 588-1000. A list of “Questionable Doctors” can also be obtained from Public Citizen for each state.
(3) Communicate, communicate, communicate.
It is important to find out as much as you can about the physician involved in your case. See if he is listed on the internet. If he has written any articles, see what the focus is. Ask other physicians, nurses, hospital employees and others in the community about this person. Now, with this information in hand, schedule an appointment to talk with the doctor. Try not to schedule it during his lunch break, or while he is seeing patients. You want his undivided attention and you will not get it if he is thinking about some medical crisis sitting in the next room.
(4) Build a relationship.
Lawyers who specialize in workers’ compensation are likely to see the same physician Continue reading