When Can an Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Claimant Choose His or Her Doctor?

Posted by: Chris

It goes without saying that when an employee is injured while working, treatment for his or her injuries is largely to the determination of the employer and its insurers. With this in mind, when can an employee choose his or her own doctor to treat work-related injuries? Well, in terms of Oklahoma law, the answer lies within the interpretation of the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act.

In a recent case, an Oklahoma appeals court upheld a decision made by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission to affirm the right of an employer to direct the treatment of its employee after diagnosis. The case, Edward Bray v. Precofacet Houston, LLC, Travelers Indemnity Co. of America and The Workers’ Compensation Commission, turned on a lack of knowledge by the employer of the employee’s neck injury.

In the matter, the employee was injured on September 10, 2015. After filing a formal notice of claim in which he alleged injury to his neck and left shoulder, subsequent tests did not diagnose any injury of the neck. As a result, the employer admitted the employee’s shoulder injury, for which he was treated, but denied the neck injury. This occurred on November 24, 2015. The denial by the employer, as well as its insurer, arose from their reliance on an initial diagnosis which did not reveal an injury that involved both the shoulder and neck of the employee.

Despite the findings of a subsequent diagnosis that did reveal the employee’s neck injury, the worker’s wish to choose his own physician for treatment – a wish that was granted by an administrative law judge – was later denied by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Instead, the employer’s right to direct the employee’s treatment was affirmed. Why was this so? A look at the requirements laid out by the Workers’ Compensation Act, could clarify the Commission’s position.

In order for an employee to be able to choose his or her own physician, the employer must first have “actual knowledge” of an injury. Second, the date of this injury must be made known. This date then feeds into the five-day period within which the employer must provide medical treatment. In the event that the employer fails to provide this treatment within the stipulated period, the injured employee then has the freedom to select a physician at the expense of the employer.

The court’s decision to uphold the Workers’ Compensation Commission was based on the fact that prior to an Electromyogram carried out in February 2016, there was no indication of the neck injury. Unfortunately for the employee, the employer’s contention that it had no knowledge of the neck injury was accepted by the court.

If you have been injured at work and need representation to secure your rights, you need an attorney who knows the workings of Oklahoma’s Workers’ Compensation system. Contact the attorneys at Armstrong and Vaught, P.L.C. to arrange a consultation: phone (918) 582-2500 or toll free at (800) 722-8880 or contact us online.