The function of the panel of doctors is to give the injured worker “guidance” after the injury. So long as the panel is posted where the employees can see it, the employee must utilize one of these doctors for treatment of their job injury. The worker may make one change of doctors from the posted list.
In my dreams, in the perfect world, the employer does not post the panel at the time of the injury. In that case the worker may choose any doctor and the insurer must pay for the medical treatment. Insurance companies totally resist the employee's attempt to “go off the panel.”
The employer and insurance company's goal is to control the workers' compensation medical care. Control of the medical is equal to control of the workers' case. This is why they fight like a mad dog to resist the no panel issue.
One of the first question I ask of a new client is “have you seen the panel of doctors posted at your place of work?” Most clients say they have not seen the panel or have had it explained to them. Yet, 95% of the time, the panel is posted.
When the panel is not posted, I ask my clients to go take a picture of the panel of doctors. Then I ask them to complete an affidavit stating the picture(s) were taken by them after the date of injury.
With this evidence, we can prevail. This means that the insurance company will be required to pay for the worker's entire medical treatment. That frees the worker to get treatment where they want. If the insurance company later accepts the case, the parties usually arrive at an agreement for a new doctor. Sometimes, we insist on keeping the workers' choice of doctors, depending on the circumstances of the agreement.