When the Workers’ Comp Doctor Is Negligent

A doctor is diagnosing a patient

Workers’ compensation doctors can be held liable when their negligent acts cause injuries or death. Like other medical professionals, workers’ comp doctors sometimes make mistakes that constitute medical malpractice. They might misdiagnose injuries or fail to practice proper care when performing medical procedures and surgeries.

How Does Medical Malpractice Work if a Workers’ Comp Doctor Is Involved?

Workers’ compensation doctors have a duty to provide care that meets the standards of what other medical professionals would provide in the same or similar circumstances. Even though the workers’ comp doctor is paid by the employer’s insurance company, he or she still owes the patient a duty of care. Medical malpractice occurs when injury or death is caused by a medical professional’s negligence. Although the Workers’ Compensation Act protects employers from lawsuits except in rare cases, workers’ comp doctors are not afforded the same protection. A medical malpractice claim or lawsuit may be filed against a workers’ compensation doctor if his or her negligence results in a patient’s harm.

For example, a workers’ comp doctor may cause injuries during a surgical procedure that lead to subsequent treatment. The insurance company may attempt to argue that they’re not responsible for covering long-term treatment because the doctor was the one who caused the injury as opposed to the employer. However, the employer’s insurer is liable for additional wage loss, medical treatment, or permanent disability resulting from this doctor’s malpractice.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim Against the Workers’ Comp Doctor

Workers’ compensation insurance companies are responsible for medical treatment if a worker sustains injuries because of the doctor’s treatment or testing. While a workers’ comp claim could cover economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages, it won’t help compensate for non-monetary damages such as pain and suffering. Filing a malpractice claim or lawsuit in addition to the workers’ compensation claim, however, can help account for the psychological and physical anguish the patient has suffered.

While fault does not need to be proved for a workers’ compensation claim to be successful, the following elements must exist to win a medical malpractice case.

  • The physician owed the plaintiff a duty of care
  • The physician breached the duty of care
  • The victim suffered a compensable injury
  • The injury was caused by the doctor’s negligence

In many cases, a workers’ comp lawyer can help a victim file a medical malpractice claim while the worker’ compensation claim is still in progress. 

Grazian & Volpe, Part of the Lloyd Miller Law Group

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