When Is An Employee Entitled To Select A Physician For A Workers’ Compensation Claim?

construction_worker_work_worker-1024x683When receiving medical care, the choice of medical professional can influence your treatment. If you have been injured on the job, you might not be sure if you can pick your own doctor or if you have to use a doctor your employer selects. Under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured worker is entitled to select a physician in any specialty for an initial visit. The employer is not required to approve the employee’s choice of physician. What happens if the employer claims the employee was not injured on the job? 

Blann Kyle filed a workers’ compensation claim against Boise Cascade Company (“Boise”), claiming he had lost his hearing as a result of his employment at a paper mill located in DeRidder, Louisiana. He filed the claim seven years after he retired. Kyle then filed a motion for an expedited hearing, under La. R.S. 23:1121. Kyle claimed Boise had not authorized his initial visit with his choice of physician. Kyle wanted the workers’ compensation judge to order Boise to authorize his initial visit to the physician he had selected, reimburse him for the medical expenses resulting from the testing and treatment by that physician, and pay penalties and attorneys’ fees. Boise countered that Kyle’s claims were prescribed, meaning he had waited too long to bring his workers’ compensation claim. Boise also claimed it was not proper for Kyle to request penalties and attorneys’ fees with his motion for an expedited hearing. The workers’ compensation judge denied Kyle’s motion, holding there was a “tenuous link” between Kyle’s alleged hearing loss and his employment. Therefore, Boise had acted properly in refusing him the choice of a physician. Kyle filed an appeal. 

Louisiana courts have recognized that hearing loss can be caused by occupational exposure and can be an occupational disease where an injured worker is entitled to workers’ compensation. See Arrant v. Graphic Packaging International, Inc. Under La. R.S. 23:1121, an injured worker is entitled to select a physician in any specialty without his employer’s approval. If the employer denies that, the employee has the right to request an expedited proceeding. The employee can also receive attorney’s fees and penalties. 

The appellate court explained that although the workers’ compensation judge found a “tenuous link” between Kyle’s hearing loss and his employment, causation was not at issue in determining if an employer deprived an employee of the right to see a physician of his choice. Thus, there was no evidence to support a finding the Boise reasonably denied Kyle’s request to see his selected physician. Boise could not have good cause to deny Kyle’s request by simply attempting to counter the information Kyle had presented about his hearing loss. Therefore, the appellate court sent the case back to determine if it was appropriate to award Kyle attorney’s fees and penalties. 

When facing potential workers’ compensation claims and employer resistance, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who can provide guidance on your rights and the remedies available to you. An attorney can help navigate the complexities of the workers’ compensation system, ensuring that you receive the support and benefits you deserve in the event of a workplace injury.

Additional Sources: Blann Kyle v. Boise Cascade Company

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm

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