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Can Californians use their own doctor to treat work injuries?

Workers' compensation laws and regulations vary among states. While the differences are typically not very large, some of them may matter a great deal to those suffering from a workplace injury. One rule that affects California employees centers on what physician they can see following a work-related injury.

Many states allow workers to see the doctor of their choice after an injury. In California, this may not be a possibility. Unless you have predesignated a treating physician, you may have to receive treatment from a state-approved physician. Predesignating a physician can be confusing for workers. If you need assistance with this or with any other aspect of workers' compensation, consider seeking advice from an attorney.

You will need to inform your employer in writing about using your doctor before you suffer any work injuries. You can do this by writing a statement or using the appropriate form provided by the state's workers' compensation program. A good rule of thumb is to inform employers shortly after they take you on as an employee.

In most situations, your chosen medical provider must agree in advance to treat any work injuries you may suffer. Have the physician sign a predesignation form or another type of documentation indicating their agreement. You will need to give this document to your employer.

If your employer or their insurer has a contract with a health care organization that treats injured workers, the rules for predesignating are different. For example, you do not need to get your doctor's agreement. However, you will need to complete a form designating your medical treatment wishes each year.

If you have any questions or concerns about which physician(s) can treat your work-related injuries, you may want to consult a workers' compensation attorney.

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