Best Practices for Injured Missouri Workers: Part 2 of 4

February 10, 2012,

In Part 2 of our 4 part series, "Best Practices for Injured Workers," our Missouri workers' compensation attorneys offer some guidelines related to medical care.

PIC108543992297.jpgReceiving appropriate medical treatment is crucial. Many workplace injuries cause are extremely debilitating, causing physical limitations and serious pain, and they require extensive and continuous treatment. If you are eligible for workers' comp, and you have reported the injury to your employer (see Part 1 of our series), then your benefits should cover your medical expenses. According to the Missouri Department of Labor, "The employer or insurer is required to provide the medical treatment and care to cure and relieve the employee from the effects of the injury. This includes all costs for authorized medical treatment, prescriptions, and medical devices."

Can I choose my own doctors?
No - not unless you plan to pay your own expenses out of pocket. Workers' comp law affords the employer (or the insurer, on the employer's behalf) the legal right to select any and all health care providers. Be sure that you check with your employer and/or the insurer regarding physicians who treat your injury. If you're not satisfied with the medical care that you're receiving, it might be in your best interests to consult the attorney.

What if I have to travel to receive treatment?
If you are required to see a doctor whose office is located outside the local/metropolitan area of your principal place of employment, your employer is required to pay the "necessary and reasonable expenses" associated with that travel. However, employers will not cover the cost of travel "over 250 miles each way from the place of treatment." If you are not a Missouri resident, your employer can choose a treatment facility within 100 miles of your residence, the location of your injury, or your place of hire.

Do I have to agree to medical examinations and evaluations at my employer's request?
The law does permit your employer (or insurer) to request that you "submit to reasonable medical examinations" while you are on disability. Your employer can request multiple exams if you require long-term treatment, or if you have more than one injury. Similarly, you can be compelled to "submit to appropriate vocational testing and a vocational assessment scheduled by an employer or its insurer." Typically, these assessments are only administered when an injured worker is claiming to be permanently and totally disabled.

Who is allowed to have access to my medical records?
Missouri law requires hospitals (and other medical facilities) who treat injured workers furnish all records (and "full information") to the following parties:

• The injured worker (the patient), or his/her dependents
• The employer
• The Division of Workers' Compensation or the Workers' Compensation Commission
• Any other party to the workers' comp claim

What happens if the insurance company doesn't pay my bills?
If you're covered by workers' compensation, and you've received treatment from a health provider authorized by your employer, that provider should not attempt to collect any fees from you. However, you must formally notify your provider (in writing, by certified mail) that you are being treated for a workplace injury covered by workers' compensation.

In the event you are billed, and the insurance company refuses to pay, you can request an evidentiary hearing before a judge. This is yet another instance where an attorney can be a major asset.

For more information about workers' compensation claims, please visit our website. In Part 3 of this series, coming next week, we'll explain the different types of benefits available to injured Missouri workers.

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