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Physical Therapy in Workers’ Compensation Claims

After a physical injury at work, the employer is required to furnish the injured employee medical benefits which include medical, surgical, psychological, and other related or derivative treatment at hospitals and physical therapy facilities.  See, O.C.G.A. §34-9-200(a).  The employer/insurer will be entitled to enjoy the State Board of Workers’ Compensation fee schedule for the payment of these services.  The injured worker should not be charged for this related treatment and he or she should be entitled to transportation or mileage reimbursement.

With particular regard to physical therapy, these sessions should be prescribed by the authorized treating physician.  This type of physical treatment is aimed at improving mobility and to relieve pain.  It also strives to improve or restore physical functioning after an injury.  Moreover, physical therapy should improve the injured worker’s fitness level.   In many workers’ compensation cases, the recommended treatment plan will often require physical therapy either before and /or after surgery.   Physical therapy is common in workers’ compensation cases involving spinal injury cases (neck and back) as well as work injuries involving shoulder and knee tears.  Physical therapy may be done at clinics (HealthSouth or Resurgens) or hospitals (St. Joseph’s or Northside).  It will almost always include a “home exercise” component as well.

In the workers’ compensation setting, it is very important that the injured worker attend and attempt physical therapy.  At the Ramos Law Firm, we firmly believe that your health is at the utmost importance, and you must do everything you can to restore and improve your physical condition after a work injury.  It is important that the injured worker have a good working relationship with the physical therapist and understand they are there to help you “get better.”  However, if the physical therapy is not working, there is no need to injure yourself more.  Be open and honest with the therapist and keep him or her informed of your pain at the clinic, as well as how sore or tired you become at home.  These physical therapy facilities function on information provided by the patient and what they observe during the “work out” or “session.”  In many cases, the injured employee may also undergo massage therapy or aqua therapy as a part of the overall treatment plan.  The authorized treating physician should review the physical therapist’s reports and incorporate those findings in how your future treatment plan should be formulated.

If you have any questions about physical therapy and workers’ compensation, feel free to contact the Ramos Law Firm.

Guidelines for following up with the authorized treating doctor

Generally, the goal of the injured worker and the authorized treating physician should be the same:  to heal the patient.  Given the number of patients that “company doctors” see, it is important that the injured worker serve as his or her best advocate during the medical appointments.  At the Ramos Law Firm, we recommend that the injured employee attend all the scheduled medical visits without fail  However, if you legitimately cannot attend the appointment, notify the physician’s office immediately.  Do not simply “no show”.   Also, call if you are going to be late.   If the doctor or insurance company believes you are refusing medical care, then this may inhibit your entitlement to future care or other workers’ compensation benefits.

When you meet with the treating doctor, have a notebook and pen with you.  We recommend that you write down all your questions before the appointment and make sure you ask him or her for the answers.  As the doctor is answering, take notes as to what the doctor or nurse said in response to the questions.  Also, we recommend you use this “notebook” as your medical diary with relation to your workers’ compensation injuries.  Write down everything you think may be useful.  For example, write down the name of the doctor and nurse, the medical group, the address of the medical facility, parking charges, medication, the level of pain, symptoms or complaints made to the doctor or nurse, and the length of time the doctor spent with you.  These little bits of information may be tedious at first but it may prove to be crucial if there is a dispute down the road.

Additionally, we recommend that the injured worker attend with a trusted family member.  By doing this, it will hopefully cut down on misinterpreting the doctor’s and nurse’s instructions.  If English is not your first language and you prefer an interpreter to assist with the medical evaluation, ask for it.  Don’t be embarrassed or shy about it.  It is your health at stake. On the other hand, the Ramos Law Firm does not recommend you allow anyone from the insurance company attend your medical appointments.  This includes “nurse case managers” or “nurse consultants”.  These people are simply agents of the insurance company and their loyalties run to the insurance company, not the patient.  Remember, you must be actively engaged in your medical treatment as no one else is more qualified to speak about your health issues and complaints.

If you have any questions  about following up with the authorized treating doctors in Atlanta, Decatur, or anywhere in Georgia, please feel free to contact the Ramos Law Firm for a free consultation.

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