The Panel of Four
- Edward Berry
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The Panel of Four
In Alabama’s workers’ comp system, the authorized treating physician (ATP) yields extraordinary power & influence. Virtually every benefit available to an injured worker in our system is affected by the opinions of the ATP. Our law gives the employer (and its WC insurer) the right to pick the worker’s ATP. Thus, the employer has significant control. The law generally gives the worker a one-time right to request a panel of four physicians from the employer if the worker is dissatisfied with the ATP. From this panel the worker can pick a new doctor. There are numerous condsiderations to the worker and his/her attorney exercising this choice. Here are a few.
- Don’t use it too fast. You only get one shot. Many workers get mad at the first WC doctor and request a panel quickly. Most times, it’s a waste to use your panel on an initial treating doctor. Hold tight unless it is necessary to play the panel card.
- Don’t wait too long. Certain doctors are so hurtful to your case that you can’t afford to clothe them with authority by allowing them to examine your client. Consider getting rid of them quickly by using the panel.
- Be cautious in pain cases. If your client’s condition will likely lead to long-term pain care, consider holding the panel card. Your client may need to use it years after the case is settled.
- Make sure its a valid panel. The doctors on the panel should be of the same speciality as the ATP and not be in the same practice.
- Introduce your client. When you choose a new doctor, consider sending a briefing letter to the new doctor along with the medical records. Insurers often send intro letters that are not flattering. Beat them to the punch.
If you have additional questions about The Panel of Four, give us a call at 205-588-0555. We are happy to serve you.
Servant Law is also available to you as a referral source for workers’ compensation calls that you receive or to talk with you regarding quirky workers’ comp issues you are experiencing in cases that you are currently handling.