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How are medical expenses handled after a work injury?

When a San Diego resident is injured in a workplace accident or becomes ill from the work he or she was doing, workers' compensation benefits will come to the forefront. A key to the worker's future is to receive the proper medical treatment to address the problem.

In many cases, people are confused about how medical and hospital treatment is handled, who pays the medical expenses and whether the worker can see a doctor of his or her choosing or must visit a medical professional through the employer. For these and other factors about workers' compensation, it is wise to ensure the law is followed and one's worker's rights are protected.

If the worker needs any kind of medical care and that care is deemed reasonable and necessary to relieve and cure the worker from the injury or illness, the employer is required to pay for it. That includes medical care, surgeries, chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, hospitalization, nursing, medications, surgical supplies and more. If the employer does not do this or refuses to do it, the employer will be liable for reasonable expenses that the employee incurred.

In some cases, the employer or insurance company representing the employer has a contract with a network that provides medical care. The employee must use that provider.

If the employee wishes to be treated by a medical professional of his or her choosing and there was no medical provider contracted to the employer, the employee can be treated by their own doctor 30 days after reporting the injury. Once the employee has reached the allowable number of chiropractic treatments, the chiropractor cannot be the treating physician. For employees who informed the employer in writing about having a personal physician before the injury occurred, that physician can provide treatment from the date of the injury if that employee has health coverage for non-occupational injuries or if there was an illness.

Injured or ill workers who need workers' compensation benefits and accompanying medical care might be focused on the treatment itself. This is understandable. However, disputes can arise when the worker prefers a certain physician and the employer wants the worker to see a different physician. Another common problem is getting all the care and items that are part of that care.

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