It’s bad enough getting hurt at work. Any confusion or delay in seeing a doctor for medical treatment just adds to the misery. Getting medical care after a work injury is supposed to be easy. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it can be a challenge.
In the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act, Section 52-1-49 states, in part, the following:
A. After an injury to a worker and subject to the requirements of the Workers’ Compensation Act, and continuing as long as medical or related treatment is reasonably necessary, the employer shall, subject to the provisions of this section, provide the worker in a timely manner reasonable and necessary health care services from a health care provider.
B. The employer shall initially either select the health care provider for the injured worker or permit the injured worker to make the selection. Subject to the provisions of this section, that selection shall be in effect during the first sixty days from the date the worker receives treatment from the initially selected health care provider.
C. After the expiration of the initial sixty-day period set forth in Subsection B of this section, the party who did not make the initial selection may select a health care provider of his choice. Unless the worker and employer otherwise agree, the party seeking such a change shall file a notice of the name and address of his choice of health care provider with the other party at least ten days before treatment from that health care provider begins.
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 52-1-49 (West)
There is more to read in Section 52-1-49. Additionally, the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration has written rules to flesh out the process. However, choosing a doctor or healthcare provider after a work injury is confusing. Worse, the confusion can delay treatment (which delays recovery and your return to work) and can delay payment of benefits.
Employers have the most power to resolve this problem because they get to choose the first doctor or healthcare provider after a work injury.
Once an employer hires a worker, the employer should tell the worker the following in case the worker is hurt on the job: how to get first aid, who to tell about the accident and injury, what doctor or healthcare provider to see for treatment, what notice forms to fill out and what light duty (if any) is available.
If employers did this for every new hire, I guarantee that an injured worker would have an easier time getting medical treatment and getting back to work sooner. There would also be a lot less litigation.
Unfortunately, in my experience, few employers do this.
What can you do BEFORE a work injury to smooth the workers’ compensation process in case you get hurt at work?
First, when you are hired ask if the employer has a procedure in place in case of a work injury. If the answer is yes, ask what the specific procedure is.
Second, ask what doctor or healthcare provider you should see in case you are injured at work and where the office is located. If the employer does not have a specific doctor or healthcare provider for its injured workers, then ask if you should go to the nearest emergency room or to your own doctor.
Third, ask who you should tell in case of a work injury. (If you are injured at work and don’t require emergency care, tell that person AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.) The New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act requires that an injured worker give notice of a work injury to the employer within 15 days of knowing of a work injury. If you feel you’ve missed the deadline, don’t give up. Call a workers’ compensation attorney (like me) because whether an injured worker has given proper notice is not always black and white.
Fourth, ask what forms you need to fill out. (If you are injured at work and don’t require emergency care, fill out the form or forms AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.)
If you are injured at work, follow the process as best as you can. Of course, if the injury is serious and requires immediate treatment, GET TREATMENT FIRST. GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM IF NECESSARY.
If your injury does not require immediate care or emergency care, tell your supervisor or another supervisor or, at a minimum, a co-worker. The worst thing to do is not tell anybody about a work accident or work injury.
If you require emergency treatment, it can complicate the healthcare provider choice issue. If that is the case, I recommend contacting a