Every year at the Workers’ Compensation seminar, there is a discussion of recent Appellate Division decisions. Although they are not binding precedent, there is often a great deal of guidance to be gleaned from these discussions. One recent decision from the Appellate Division was with regard to the employer’s duty to maintain a posted panel of physicians.
As discussed at length in a previous blog, the employer has a duty to maintain a list of at least six physicians. There are guidelines as to the makeup of the panel as well. The employer is then required to take reasonable measures to make sure that the employees understand their rights in terms of selecting a panel physician. Failure to do so will result in the employee having the right to treat with any physician of her choosing.
In the case decided by the Appellate Division, an employer did not advise an injured employee of her right to choose her own physician from the panel until four days after the accident. Prior to the accident, the employee had never been shown the panel, nor had it explained to her that she had the right to choose any doctor from the panel in the event of a work injury. The Appellate Division therefore held that based upon the omissions of the employer, the employee was entitled to choose any physician to treat her at the employer’s expense.
This decision reinforces the fact that employees should take the time to be aware of their rights. Conversely, employers should take the time to properly inform their employees about their rights under O.C.G.A. 34-9-201 to protect themselves from additional exposure.