(434) 384-9400 Lynchburg Office

(540) 554-3762 Roanoke Office

Serving Clients Throughout Virginia

Can I Choose My Own Doctor for Workers’ Compensation in Virginia?


If you have suffered a workplace injury in Virginia, one of the first and most important decisions you will need to make is choosing a doctor to provide treatment. However, contrary to what many employees believe, you typically cannot select just any doctor you want for workers’ compensation purposes in Virginia.

There are specific rules outlined in the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act that dictate how injured workers can select a physician after suffering an on-the-job injury. Choosing the right doctor is crucial, as your treating physician will not only oversee your medical care but also provide opinions that may impact your ability to receive benefits.

At Slominski Law, Attorney Jaleh Slominski can help injured workers understand their rights when it comes to choosing a doctor. She can guide you through this complex process so that you select the best physician for your situation. Call her today at (434) 384-9400 (Lynchburg office) or (540) 554-3762 (Roanoke office) for a free consultation.

Employers Must Provide a List of Physicians

Under Section 65.2-603 of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, employers have certain obligations when it comes to providing medical treatment for injured employees.

One such obligation is that the employer must provide the injured worker with a panel of at least three physicians from which the employee can select a treating doctor. This is known as the “Panel of Physicians.”

Some key things to know about the Panel of Physicians:

  • The employer gets to select which physicians are included on the panel. However, certain restrictions apply, which we’ll discuss shortly.
  • The doctors on the panel must be located within a 50-mile radius of the employer’s location or the employee’s residence.
  • The physicians on the panel must include at least one who meets the medical specialty needs of the employee’s injury.
  • Perhaps most importantly, each physician on the Panel of Physicians must practice independently from the others on the list. This means the doctors cannot operate out of the same office or clinic.

The purpose of these rules is to provide the injured employee with legitimate options from which to choose a treating physician.

What if No Panel is Provided?

If your employer does not provide a Panel of Physicians soon after you get injured, you may have the right to select your own doctor outside of the employer’s control. However, there are a few things to consider before taking this step:

  • Your employer may argue you did not give sufficient time for them to provide a physician panel.
  • Even if a panel was not supplied initially, your employer could provide one later on and argue you must now choose from one of those doctors.
  • Selecting your own unauthorized physician means you may have to pay for treatment out-of-pocket if your claim for workers’ compensation benefits is denied.

For these reasons, it is wise to speak to an experienced attorney before choosing an unauthorized doctor in a Virginia workers’ compensation claim. The attorneys at Slominski Law can review the details of your case and provide guidance on the best path forward.

Can I Choose My Own Doctor If the Panel is Defective?

As mentioned previously, the Panel of Physicians provided by your employer must contain at least three independent choices. If two or more of the doctors are affiliated with the same practice, the panel would be considered defective.

In this situation, you may have the right to select a physician of your choosing without limitation by the employer. However, as with the scenario above where no panel was supplied at all, your employer could dispute the legitimacy of your selected physician. This could potentially leave you stuck with hefty medical bills. It is generally best to speak to a lawyer before moving forward with an unauthorized doctor. 

Choosing the Best Doctor for Your Virginia Work Injury Case

If your employer supplies a valid Panel of Physicians, you will need to choose one of the doctors on the list to treat your workplace injury. When deciding which physician to select, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Skills and abilities. First and foremost, you want a doctor who is qualified and experienced in treating your particular type of injury. Thoroughly research the background of each physician on the panel to determine who is best suited for your needs.
  • Bedside manner. You want a doctor you feel comfortable with and who shows empathy regarding what you are going through with your injury.
  • Understanding of the workers’ compensation system. Your doctor will provide opinions that may impact your ability to receive comp benefits. It helps significantly if your doctor understands the workers’ compensation process and the importance of supporting your claim.
  • Willingness to work with your attorney. As your workers’ comp claim progresses, your treating physician and attorney may need to collaborate, particularly if your benefits are challenged or denied. Select a doctor who is willing and responsive when it comes to communicating with your lawyer.

If you have questions about choosing a doctor from your employer’s Panel of Physicians, the team at Slominski Law can help. Call (434) 384-9400 (Lynchburg office) or (540) 554-3762 (Roanoke office) today to learn more.

Can I Switch Doctors Under Virginia Workers’ Compensation Law?

In most cases, once you have selected a treating physician from the panel, you will need to continue treating with that doctor for the duration of your workers’ compensation claim. However, there are certain scenarios under which you may be permitted to switch physicians, including but not limited to:

The Doctor Releases You from Care

If your treating doctor determines you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and releases you from care, you may request your employer provide a new Panel of Physicians. From there, you can select another doctor to potentially provide a second opinion or alternate treatment recommendations.

You Relocate to a New Area

If you move to a different city or state following your work injury, you may argue the travel required to continue seeing your initial treating physician constitutes an unreasonable burden. In this situation, you could ask your employer to supply a new panel of doctors who practice closer to your new place of residence.

You’re Not Getting the Right Treatment

There have been cases in Virginia where the employee’s condition did not improve under their physician’s treatment, or the employee continued to suffer pain despite the physician’s declaration of MMI. If it is evident that you’re not getting the right treatment, you may request the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission for a change in physician. 

It is wise to speak to an attorney before attempting to switch doctors in any of these scenarios. There may be counterarguments your employer could make, and you want to make sure changing physicians does not jeopardize your benefits.

The legal team at Slominski Law has extensive experience guiding injured workers through the complex process of changing doctors under Virginia workers’ compensation laws. Your consultation with us is free.

Why an Experienced Attorney Matters When Selecting Your Work Injury Doctor

Given the complex rules and high stakes involved, having skilled legal guidance when choosing a treating physician for a Virginia workplace injury claim is critical. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can provide tremendous value in the following ways:

  • Reviewing the validity of the employer’s Panel of Physicians. As discussed previously, if defects exist within the panel provided by your employer, you may gain additional rights when it comes to physician selection. An attorney can review the panel with a fine-tooth comb to identify any exploitable defects.
  • Researching the doctors’ backgrounds. Before deciding which physician to select, you want to gather as much information as possible regarding credentials, experience levels, patient reviews, and other relevant background. Your attorney’s staff can conduct in-depth research on each doctor on the panel to summarize key considerations.
  • Identifying “red flags” with certain physicians. While researching credentials and reviews, your lawyer may discover reasons to avoid particular doctors on the panel, such as a reputation for siding with insurance companies, allegations of poor bedside manner, or lack of experience treating certain injury types.
  • Providing guidance on the best choice for your situation. Taking all factors into account, your attorney can provide individualized advice regarding the physician likely to serve you best – both for medical treatment purposes and when it comes to supporting your workers’ compensation claim.
  • Collaborating with the selected physician. Once you have chosen a doctor, your attorney can reach out proactively to establish open lines of communication regarding your treatment progress, any referrals or recommendations, and obtaining supportive documentation when necessary.

Contact Slominski Law – Experienced Virginia Workers’ Comp Lawyer

The rules surrounding physician selection in Virginia workers’ compensation cases can be quite complex. Without legal guidance, navigating the physician selection process and coordinating with your chosen doctor can quickly become overwhelming. 

Attorney Jaleh Slominski Law has the resources and experience to handle such logistics seamlessly while you focus on your recovery. Call her today at (434) 384-9400 (Lynchburg office) or (540) 554-3762 (Roanoke office) for more information.