Case name: Clark v. Alegent Health Nebraska, No. S-12-271 (Neb. 01/18/13).
Ruling: The Nebraska Supreme Court held that a nurse was entitled to choose her own physician and avoid the chain of referral, and her treatment was compensable.
What it means: In Nebraska, a worker can choose her physician if compensability is denied.
Summary: A nurse for a medical center was attacked by a psychiatric patient during the course and scope of her employment. She was grabbed from behind by her hair and shoulder and thrown against the wall and onto the floor. She sustained head, neck, and shoulder injuries. Six weeks before, she had undergone surgical exploration, decompression, and neurolysis of the left spinal accessory nerve for nonwork-related medical issues. The nurse filed a workers' compensation claim and selected her surgeon as her treating physician. She sought treatment and missed three days of work. The center did not pay for her treatment or absence from work. She sought other treatment from other physicians. Nearly one year after the incident, she underwent decompression surgery. The nurse sought benefits. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that she was entitled to choose her own physician and avoid the chain of referral, and her treatment was compensable.
The court found that the center did not uphold its duty to supply medical treatment that was prompt, in compliance with the law on choice of doctors, and adequate for the nurse's injury. The center had notice of the incident, her initial treatment, her designated treating physician, and the necessity of treatment, but did not cover the expense of treatment or her absence from work. The center also denied compensability for her surgery nearly one year after the work incident. The court explained that the nurse had a right to select her own physicians because the center effectively denied compensability. Her injury was later deemed compensable by the trial court, so the center was liable for her medical treatment by all of the physicians.
The court found it was inconsistent to deny compensation for an emergency room visit regarding her head, neck, and shoulder when her surgery a few months later was compensable.
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May 6, 2013
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