work comp questions

Can I Choose My Own Doctor if I am Receiving Workers' Comp?

Rulings on Choice of Physician, Care Providers

The employer's representative chooses authorized health care providers and pays for authorized treatment. R. 67-509; S.C. Code Ann. §42-15-60. It is always recommended that an employer develop a network of doctors who are acquainted with industrial medicine. If a claimant goes to his own doctor after an injury and is excused from work, the employer can require the employee to be evaluated by the company doctor and return to work if the company doctor so directs. Further, the employer/carrier is only responsible for payment of services by authorized medical providers. An employer is not responsible to pay for other doctors or care providers an employee might seek attention from, unless the company doctor has referred the employee to those doctors or other care providers.

In the past, once an injured employee had been taken out of work by the company doctor, a company representative would maintain contact with that doctor to determine

  • (1) when the employee may return to work;
  • (2) what restrictions applied to the employee;
  • (3) when the employee had reached MMI; and
  • (4) whether the employee had any permanent impairment.

There were no restrictions on communicating with any doctor treating the employee in South Carolina.

HOWEVER, Brown v. Bi-Lo, Inc., (S.C. Sup. Ct. Opinion No. 25662) abruptly changed this behavior. The South Carolina Supreme Court said that S.C. Code Ann. §42-15-95, governing disclosure of medical information only allowed disclosure of existing written medical reports. This means employers and carriers can no longer contact doctors, other than to obtain written medical reports, without the Claimant's consent or by means of deposition. The only way to alter this new case law will be implementation of new legislation.