Your employer pays all your medical bills if you are injured on the job, from emergency room care to physical therapy.

But there is a catch. In New Jersey, injured workers must seek treatment with the employer’s “preferred” doctors and clinics. This can create conflicts if these physicians downplay your injuries or clear you to return to work too soon. Are you stuck with their doctors?

At first, yes, you must go to “their” doctors

Under New Jersey workers’ compensation, employers can dictate which providers treat work-related injuries or illness. Your employer may have a designated clinic or hospital, or may provide you with a list of preferred physicians to choose from. If you’re regular physician or clinic is not on the list, you are out of luck. You could forfeit your workers’ compensation rights by going “off the grid.”

On one hand, the preferred providers are familiar with common work injuries and with workers’ compensation claim documentation. But because of their contractual relationship with your employer’s insurance carrier, your medical care and workers’ comp benefits may be compromised:

  • The doctors may downplay the injury or assessment of disability.
  • They may be conservative in treatment, such as refusing to authorize surgery.
  • They may not be specialized enough to provide the care you need.
  • They may send you back to work before your body is healed.

But you are not necessarily stuck with their doctors

Your initial treatment must start with a preferred provider. After that, you can request permission to switch to your regular doctor or to a specialist who is not on their pre-approved list.

If you are not getting competent care, or disagree with the diagnosis, or are denied a specific treatment, you can file a Motion for Medical Benefits. The Division of Workers’ Compensation will prioritize these requests, usually within 30 days. If your appeal is successful, workers’ comp will cover the new doctor and

A workers’ compensation lawyer can explain your rights and the process in greater detail, and answer questions about your specific situation. Don’t be afraid to fight for the medical care you need and deserve.