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Can an Injured Florida Worker Request a Change of Doctor?

When someone is hurt in a Florida workplace accident, they can pursue a claim under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act. If approved, a workers’ compensation claim provides an injured employee with medical treatment and ongoing compensation for the time they are unable to work. Doctors have a critical role in a workers’ compensation case because many of the determinations that dictate whether a claim is approved, the amount of benefits an injured worker receives, and the length of time that benefits will be paid are in a doctor’s hands.

Given the importance that the selected doctor plays in the claims process, one question that frequently arises in Florida workers’ compensation cases is whether an injured worker can request a change in doctors. The answer, as is often the case, is “it depends.” Generally speaking, an employer is able to select the treating physician except in cases of emergency medical care. However, there are several situations in which a worker can choose their own doctor. Both, however, require that an employer drop the ball when it comes to an employee’s request.

The first scenario involves a situation where an employee requests medical treatment, but an employer fails to provide treatment within a reasonable amount of time. In this case, an employee can seek out their own care, pay for it, and then ask to be reimbursed by their employer.

The second scenario where an injured worker is allowed to choose a treating physician is when they ask for a one-time change of doctor, but the employer fails to respond after five days. Under Florida Statutes 440.13, an injured employee is entitled to a one-time change of physician. Once an employee requests a change, the employer has five days to provide the employee with a new physician that practices in the same specialty. If an employer fails to do so, the employee can then pick their own physician, and the employer will not be able to object as long as the treatment that is provided is both compensable under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act and medically necessary.

In a recent appellate decision, a Florida court explained that the alternate physician provided by an employer must practice within the same specialty and that it is not enough for the replacement physician to offer similar services. In that case, an injured worker requested a new physician, and the employer provided a replacement physician within five days. While the new physician provided similar services (physical medicine and rehabilitation), he did not practice in the same specialization. The plaintiff then went and selected his own physician, and the employer denied coverage. However, the court upheld the employee’s right to make the selection based on the employer’s failure to provide a suitable replacement physician.

Have You Been Injured on the Job?

If you have recently been injured in a Florida workplace accident, you may be entitled to benefits through the workers’ compensation program. At the South Florida injury law firm, Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent employees who have suffered a serious injury on the job in both personal injury cases and workers’ compensation claims. To learn more about how we can help you file a claim, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

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