Important Change in the Law for Injured Workers: Will the Medical Handcuffing Stop?
As of July 1, 2017, there are many important changes in the workers’ compensation (WC) laws in Nevada. One of the most crucial changes is the right for the injured worker to seek an independent medical examination (“IME”).
Prior to this change in the law, NRS 616C.140 allowed insurers to require the injured worker to submit to an IME for whatever and whenever the insurer wanted. The injured worker was not even allowed to agree on a doctor, making the entire process far from independent. Injured workers would also face compensation and benefit suspension if they failed to attend the IME. NRS 616C.140(5).
The injured worker had no statutory right to obtain an IME on their own unless the injured worker literally paid thousands of dollars to see an IME doctor. Most injured workers do not have that kind of money at their disposal. Also, the injured worker could not obtain the IME through their own private healthcare because the injury was a work injury, something not covered by their own private healthcare. This process has been referred to as “medical handcuffing.”
This is precisely why the change in the law potentially can remove those medical handcuffs from the injured worker, adding transparency and fairness to the claims process. After the 79th Legislative Session, the Nevada Legislature and the Nevada Governor enacted AB 458. Now, as a matter of right, the injured worker is entitled to select an IME doctor of their choice from the DIR panel of doctors established by NRS 616C.090(1), when such a “dispute” as to scope of claim exists. It is important to note that this selection is from the entire panel, not the insurer’s particular list. Moreover, the expense of the IME must be borne by the insurer pursuant to this newly enacted law.
This is a substantial change in the law for injured workers. Insurers are no longer going to be able to use NRS 616C.140 to require an injured worker to submit to an IME (although not independent since the insurer controls everything about it) without possible recourse for the injured worker.
Injured workers should seek an experienced attorney regarding this newly enacted law. The experienced attorney will not only be able to give guidance on this law, but also all other laws associated with work injuries. Failure to do this could be hazardous to your health and wealth.