Change of Treating Physician In California Workers Comp Case

In Roacho v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1998) 63 Cal. Comp. Cases 874 Dr. Laughlin diagnosed the employee as permanent and stationary and found that the employee did not need further treatment, but opined that the employee "would need future medical care in the form of short courses of physical therapy upon acute exacerbation, and not on an ongoing basis." (Id. at p. 875.) The following month, the employee sought treatment from Dr. Hunt. The workers' compensation judge ruled that Dr. Laughlin remained the employee's treating physician because he had discharged the employee from his care, and found the need for "continuing medical treatment was, at best, extremely minimal." (Id. at p. 876.) The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board adopted the workers' compensation judge's report and denied reconsideration. The workers' compensation judge in Roacho stated that pursuant to section 9785, where the primary treating physician has discharged the employee from further treatment but there is a dispute about the need for further medical care, the issue must be resolved by the workers' compensation judge. Hence, Roacho reveals that the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board has in the past determined, where the treating doctor has declared the employee permanent and stationary and released the employee to return to work, while indicating there may be a need for future medical attention to flare-ups, that the employee is precluded from selecting another treating physician Section 9785, subdivision (b) provides, "There shall be no more than one primary treating physician at a time. Where the primary treating physician discharges the employee from further treatment and there is a dispute concerning the need for continuing treatment, no other primary treating physician shall be identified unless and until the dispute is resolved. If it is determined that there is no further need for continuing treatment, then the physician who discharged the employee shall remain the primary treating physician. If it is determined that there is further need for continuing treatment, a new primary treating physician may be selected." Section 9785, subdivision (b)'s restriction on changing treating physicians applies when the "primary treating physician discharges" the employee. Stated differently, the injured employee is entitled to change treating doctors until the primary treating doctor "discharges" that worker.