Workers’ comp doctors vs regular doctors

By: Darrell Castle

When you’re injured on the job in Tennessee, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will provide you with three options of doctors to be evaluated and treated by. The doctor you choose will evaluate your injury to determine your disability rating, which will in turn determine the amount of lump sum compensation you’ll receive, if any, or if you should get back to work.

Let’s say you receive a 6% disability rating after you injured your hand on the job. The 6% rating to your hand means that you’re 6% less able to earn a living with that hand than you were before. So, you’re entitled to a lump sum benefit for that disability.

If you think the disability rating you received is too low, you have the option to dispute it. However, to successfully dispute the rating, you need credible support to back it up.

This is where an independent medical examiner (IME) comes into play. This is simply an independent doctor that serves as a second opinion for your disability rating.

Assuming the IME’s rating is higher, it’s used as a negotiation method to hopefully receive a higher disability rating.

Why do the two doctors’ opinions contrast so much?

The simple answer is – the workers’s comp doctor is working for your employer’s insurance company and the independent doctor is not, and as the old saying goes, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

It can also be an ego thing. The workers’s comp doctor probably sees himself or herself as a highly-qualified, expert doctor, and in most cases, he or she is. When you have that kind of self-esteem, you don’t want an independent doctor telling you you’re wrong.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam about how the new Tennessee workers’ comp law was affecting a woman who came into my office. A conveyor belt crushed her hand so badly she couldn’t close it, yet she received a disability rating of 0 from the worker’s comp doctor. She begged for an MRI, but wasn’t granted one. With a job that requires her to lift heavy objects, how was she supposed to work and earn a living with her hand the way it was?

Never before in my 30 years of practice had I seen a person with an injury of this woman’s magnitude receive a 0 rating. Yet now, with new laws declaring that a small panel of doctors selected by the insurance companies will determine the fates of injured workers, this happens.

It’s a sad, but true reality.

An experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you with all of this. I would say under most circumstances, you will not get the compensation you are fully entitled to unless you have legal advice.

Please let us help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today, either online or by calling us at (901) 327-1212 and one of our experienced personal injury attorneys will be ready to speak with you, free of charge.