Even though you know your body better than anyone else, in workers’ compensation cases it’s your doctor who has the power to determine the state of your health, at least for the purposes of getting benefits.

If you hurt your back and can’t go to work, you can’t just decide this on your own. Not if you want to get paid for your missed time. Illinois workers’ compensation law gives workers 2/3 of their average weekly wage if they are unable to work because of an injury on the job. Your employer’s insurance company pays benefits and they are going to see what your doctor has to say. They won’t be taking your word for it.

The same is true if you need restrictions, meaning you can work but you can’t do everything you used to do. A common restriction, especially for a back injury, is no heavy lifting. Again, your doctor will likely need to say that you need such restrictions. This is especially important if your employer doesn’t have a job for you to do within those restrictions. If that’s the case, then you essentially can’t work and are entitled to payment of 2/3 of your wages while you are out of work. Again, your doctor’s orders can make all the difference.

This is one reason why it’s important to choose your doctor carefully. For most people, the best doctor is your regular, trusted doctor and the specialists to whom they refer you. Your regular doctor is likely to know you better than a new doctor. This can help, especially if you have a good relationship. If you tell them you simply can’t go back to work yet, you want them to trust that you are being honest about that and be on your side if the insurance company disagrees.

Your employer or insurance company might try to tell you that you have to see the doctor they choose. This is not true. If you see a doctor they work with, you can imagine whose side they’re likely to be on. If you have any questions about any of this, talking to an experienced work injury attorney is your best bet. You need someone looking out for your best interests, not the bottom line of their business. There are some shady lawyers who have arrangements with doctors, referring clients back and forth. Not only does this put your medical care in jeopardy, but the arbitrators who are like judges in workers’ comp cases, don’t take these doctors seriously.

The bottom line is that no one should be forcing you to see a certain doctor. It can end up hurting your claim and your benefits.

By Michael Helfand