Which States Let Injured Workers Choose Their Own Doctors?

When you’re hurt in a workplace accident, you must seek medical treatment in order to qualify for workers’ compensation. Depending on state law, injured workers have full say or none when choosing a doctor. However, choosing which doctor treats you may make you more likely to qualify for workers’ comp. A doctor who knows both you and your medical history will better estimate your recovery time. And you may qualify for workers’ comp faster, since they can vouch for chronic illnesses or older injuries. But who treats your workplace injury or illness really depends on your location — unless you’re a federal employee.

State Laws Govern Which Doctors Can Treat Injured Workers After an Accident

Every state has its own workers’ compensation laws and regulations. Some favor injured workers, while others favor the employer. For this reason, your workers’ comp protections and claims process will vary based on:

  • How big your employer’s company is as well as where it operates
  • Your Human Resources department’s guidelines for injured workers
  • Whether you’re a contractor, seasonal/part-time worker or full-time employee

Knowing what protections your state’s WC laws provide can help when you’re hurt in a workplace accident.

Many Insurance Companies & Employers Control Which Doctors Treat Workplace Injuries

Employers and insurers alike are gaining more power over which doctors can treat workers hurt while doing their jobs. Currently, only half the states let workers decide which doctor treats their injuries. But in others, injured workers must choose an insurance-approved doctor from an employer-provided list. Each state has specific guidelines for how and when an employee can choose a doctor to treat workplace injuries. (For even more details, see USlaw.org’s state-by-state breakdown here. Sometimes an employer gets first pick, but injured workers may have the right to choose their ongoing care provider.)

States That Let Injured Workers Pick Which Doctor To See After An Accident

States that let injured workers pick their own doctor after workplace accidents include:

  1. Alaska
  2. Connecticut
  3. Delaware
  4. Hawaii
  5. Illinois
  6. Kansas
  7. Louisiana
  8. Maryland
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Mississippi
  11. Montana
  12. Nebraska
  13. Nevada
  14. New Hampshire
  15. New York
  16. North Dakota
  17. Ohio
  18. Oregon
  19. Pennsylvania
  20. Rhode Island
  21. South Dakota
  22. Washington
  23. West Virginia
  24. Wisconsin
  25. Wyoming
  26. Washington D.C.

Employers Decide Which Doctors Can Treat Injured Workers In These States

These states don’t let injured workers choose which doctor to see after a job accident:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. California
  4. Colorado
  5. Idaho
  6. Indiana
  7. Iowa
  8. Maine
  9. Michigan
  10. Minnesota
  11. Missouri
  12. New Jersey
  13. New Mexico
  14. North Carolina
  15. Oklahoma
  16. South Carolina
  17. Tennessee
  18. Utah
  19. Vermont

States With Employer-Specific Rules for Treating Injured Workers

The following states have employer-specific WC laws on who chooses the injured worker’s doctor:

  • Arizona — Injured workers can choose which doctor to see, unless their employer’s self-insured. Then, the employer picks a doctor to treat their injuries.
  • Florida — If an employer’s insurer uses a managed care network, then workers must select a doctor from that list. If either no list exists or the employer doesn’t use a managed care network, the worker may choose.
  • Georgia — Workers select a doctor from an employer-provided panel. If none are available when the injury occurs, the worker can see any doctor they like.
  • Kentucky — Injured employees must pick a doctor in their employer’s managed healthcare plan network. If none exists, then workers can see any doctor they choose.
  • Texas — Since Texas is the only state where WC insurance is 100% optional, it has some confusing rules about doctors. Visit the state’s website to see which rules may apply to your case.
  • Virginia — Employers maintain a physician panel for workers to choose from. If that’s not available, workers can then see any doctor at their employer’s expense.

For better insight into each state’s specific WC laws, visit the National Federation of Independent Business website. It’s important to remember that employee choice states give injured workers the right to choose the first doctor they see. Some states require injured workers to seek ongoing care from the employer’s preferred healthcare provider after that first visit. Other injured workers may choose a doctor from an employer-supplied panel of in-network providers. And still others may choose which doctor treats their injury long-term after an initial assessment.

Whenever you don’t have a clear-cut workers’ comp case, you’re better off talking to a lawyer. Workers’ compensation attorneys can give confidential answers to all your claim questions for free. What’s more, these lawyers always work on contingency. That means you’ll owe $0 for legal assistance unless you win. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

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Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.