Injured Employee Must Not Refuse Medical Exam


North Carolina workers' compensation law provides that as long as a person claims workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must submit to an examination at reasonable times and places by a duly qualified physician or surgeon designated and paid by the employer or the Industrial Commission. Even if the employer denies the workers’ compensation claim and fails to make any payment, so long as the employee makes the claim, he or she must submit to this medical examination.

If the employee refuses to submit to an examination or in any way obstructs the examination requested and paid for by the employer, the workers’ right to compensation and his right to take or prosecute any proceeding under the Workers’ Compensation Act shall be suspended until such refusal or objection ceases. No compensation shall at any time be payable for the period of obstruction unless, in the opinion of the Industrial Commission the circumstances justify the refusal or obstruction.

The employee does have the right to have present during the examination any duly qualified physician or surgeon provided and paid for by the employee.

The employee may request that he be relieved of the duty to submit to an examination by the doctor of the employer’s choice. However, unless the circumstances are extremely unusual, this request will most probably be denied by the Industrial Commission. It is risky to refuse the request to submit to an examination made by the employer even when the employee files a motion with the Industrial Commission for relief from the requirement that he submit to this examination. The risk to the employee is that even if there is a valid workers’ compensation claim, benefits will not be payable during such time as the worker refuses or obstructs the examination.

It is important to note that the employer’s right to have the employee examined by a physician of their choice is automatic. This right does not depend upon the employer obtaining an order compelling such examination. All that is required is that the employer “request” such an examination. Failure to submit to the examination upon the mere “request” by the employer will result in suspension of benefits during the period of time that the refusal continues. Not only does the right to benefits stop during the period of such refusal, but the worker is not even allowed to proceed with the claim in the Industrial Commission during such refusal.

There is a distinction between the employer’s request for the employer to “submit themself to examination” and the employer’s demand that the employee “accept any medical, hospital or surgical or other treatment or rehabilitative procedure.” It is only when such treatment or rehabilitative procedure is first ordered by the Industrial Commission that the employee may lose their rights to benefit upon refusal to submit to the treatment.

As discussed in our workers' compensation book, the worker should exercise extreme caution when the employer seeks to have the worker change medical treatment. When this occurs the worker should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help protect against an effort by the employer to “doctor shop.”

With respect to the employer’s request for an examination (as opposed to treatment) there is very little that can be done to prevent such an examination and, in most cases the worker should submit to this examination. See section of our workers compensation book for advice on how to conduct yourself during this examination.