It almost goes without saying that if you’re injured at work, the first thing you do is seek medical advice. Obviously, you want to get treated and back on your feet as soon as possible but if your injury is serious, seeing your doctor is an important part of the claims process for workers’ compensation.
Your employer may tell you that you need to see the company doctor, but this isn’t true. It’s entirely your decision who treats you, and you can (and should!) see your own doctor.
Why is it so important to see your own doctor?
Essentially, doctors are key decision makers in your claim journey. In fact, their advice can determine:
- What treatment you need, or may need in the future
- The seriousness of your injury
- How much time you need off work
- Issues which may affect you down the track that impact your working and earning capacity
- Your return-to-work schedule
These are not decisions to be taken lightly and it’s for this reason that we recommend you are treated by your own doctor.
Your regular GP is uniquely qualified to understand your condition and how it will affect you into the future because they have first-hand knowledge of your medical history – and they have your best interests at heart.
The role of your regular doctor
The primary role of your GP is to manage your condition in the short-term and provide treatment options for your long-term care and rehabilitation. They will work with you to facilitate your return to work and refer you to medical specialists if needed.
Choosing to use your personal doctor while going through the WorkCover claims process has many benefits for you, including that you already have a relationship with your GP, which is handy when they complete the Work Capacity Certificate and have to provide their opinion on your ability to work.
The role of a company doctor
It’s common to hear stories of employees who have been directed to see the company’s preferred doctor after a work injury. Sometimes, bosses have gone so far as to drive their employees to the company’s doctor of choice, sit with them in the waiting room and insist on being present during the consultation.
Given medical appointments are private, this behaviour is inappropriate. Despite what many think, using your company’s preferred doctor is not required in order to make a WorkCover claim.
There is a risk that an employer may try to persuade the doctor to change the facts of an incident or water down the severity of your injury, or get a copy of your medical information for their own records. If your boss or a company representative asks to attend your consultation with you, you can (and should) say no.
You should also cover your bases by instructing any doctor who treats you that your employer does not have access to your medical information unless you expressly consent to it. If you do see the company doctor immediately after your work injury, you should transfer your treatment to your preferred GP as soon as practical.
The role of a WorkCover doctor
A doctor appointed by WorkCover doesn’t really treat your injuries. Their only role is to provide additional information or to clarify specific aspects of your condition through an IME (independent medical examination) and to report back to WorkCover with a permanent impairment rating.
It’s important to understand that the IME doctor is not treating you or helping manage your condition.
You should also be aware that an IME doctor:
- Is not required to keep your medical information confidential
- Has full access to your medical history
- Is picked from a panel of experts appointed by WorkCover
- Is paid by WorkCover
- Provides advice that directly impacts your weekly payments paid for by WorkCover
How this may impact your WorkCover claim
If you suffer an injury or illness while at work, during work or travelling to and from work, you are entitled to make a WorkCover claim.
However, a WorkCover claim is subject to medical evidence – so it’s clear that the doctor who treats you can have a significant impact on your claim.
Seeking legal advice early can identify when these points are valid, and when they are being used unfairly to deny a claim for WorkCover.