Very Recent Case Clarifies “Change of Doctor” Rule in Florida Workers’ Compensation Cases
On December 29, 2006, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals decided a case called Butler v. Bay Center/Chubb Insurance Company. The Court affirmed a ruling that was entered against an injured worker relating to medical care under Florida’s workers’ compensation law.
In the case, the injured worker’s authorized treating doctor recommended pain management treatment. The injured worker requested pain management from a specific pain management doctor. Instead, the workers’ compensation insurance company demanded that they select the pain management doctor. The injured worker refused to treat with the insurance company-selected doctor and requested a change of doctors. The Court ruled that the injured worker was not entitled to a change of doctors under the facts of the case.
The Court ruled that the insurance company offered pain management care (albeit not with the doctor the injured worker chose) in a timely manner. Thus, the Judge could not award the specific pain management doctor sought by the injured worker. The Court further ruled that because the injured worker did not treat with the pain management doctor selected by the insurance company, she was not entitled to a change of doctors yet. the basis for their decision was the language of the statute stating that an injured worker may request “one change of physicians during the course of treatment for any one accident.” The Court ruled that before requesting a change of doctors, the injured worker must at least begin treatment with the physician she sought to change. Because of the injured worker refused to attend the appointment with the insurance company-selected pain management doctor, she never sought treatment and this was not entitled to a change of doctors.
It is important to note that even if the injured worker received treatment, she would only be entitled to see a physician of her choice if the insurance company failed to provide another physician within five days of receiving her request for another authorized physician. Under the 2005 version of the workers’ compensation law, the insurance company is no longer required to provide an injured worker with the choice of three physicians.
As you can see, Florida’s workers’ compensation law is very tricky and if you do not have someone knowledgeable about the law, you could lose benefits. IF you have questions regarding your rights and responsibilities following a work injury in Florida, please contact me through MatthewNoyes.com or by calling 727-796-8282.