It’s been 20 years, but I still remember injuring my knee in 1996 and seeing a doctor who was supposed to be “the best” there is for knee problems.  I had never met someone more arrogant and rude before so I saw him only once and he did nothing for me.

I left that doctor and took my chances with some orthopedic doctors who were part of Northwestern Hospital in downtown Chicago.  My problem was that I was an avid runner and had over-trained while preparing for the Chicago Marathon that year.  The first doctor I saw at that practice “got it” that running was a big part of my life and directed his care of me to get me back to a healthy spot so I could run in the long term.  He too was a weekend warrior of an athlete and understood how important it is to me to be active.

I had a follow up appointment with him a couple of months after the initial exam.  When I showed up I learned that my regular doctor was stuck in a surgery that went longer than anticipated. In his place I would see one of his partners. That seemed fine by me at first until he walked in.  I’d estimate he weighed about 350 pounds and he looked really sloppy.

I let him know that I had tried to run over the weekend and my knee started to act up again.  His great advice was to tell me that if running hurts my knee then I should just stop running.  It certainly wasn’t medical advice at all.  This was a doctor who treated many of the professional athletes in town.  I pictured him telling Michael Jordan that if his leg hurt he should just stop playing basketball.  Forget trying to make you better and live the life you want, just do what this doctor does which is nothing!

Fortunately his partner was back for my next visit.  I got better and haven’t seen a doctor for knee problems since.  I wasn’t able to run the marathon that year, but I did it the next year and many others after that.

So what does this have to do with Illinois workers’ compensation injuries?

The point is that while we talk about bad lawyers all of the time, there are bad doctors too.  Just as I would tell you not to stick with a bad attorney, you shouldn’t stick with a bad doctor either.  And if you wait too long it’s likely too late.

Now you can’t just hop from doctor to doctor and expect the insurance company to pay for it.  And if the reason you want to switch is because the doctor told you your injuries aren’t work related, you’ll likely be out of luck.

On the other hand, if you realize that you don’t want this physician doing surgery on you or even giving you medical care, you should either ask to see a different doctor in the same office or get the physician who referred you to them to give you a new referral. You can also on your own seek a second opinion without a referral as long as that is the second chain of treating doctors you have seen.

For example, can you imagine being a woman and having a doctor who tries to hit on you?  There’s of course no way that you should be stuck with them.  A doctor who yells at you or keeps you waiting for a couple of hours?  Same thing.

If you do go beyond two chains of referrals (and in some cases, one chain if the employer has chosen a medical provider for you) then you could be on the hook for your medical bills.  So my advice is to ask an attorney or make sure you get a referral before you switch.  But whatever you do, don’t feel as if you are stuck because you aren’t.  We want you to get better and having the best health care possible is the way to make that happen.