Recently, an appeals court issued a decision in a Florida workers’ compensation case where the Employer appealed the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) order. In this case, the E/C granted the employee/claimant’s request for a one-time physician change. The E/C agreed and scheduled the Claimant with a new physician. The new doctor and E/C completed a new form fee agreement that exceeded the base amount under the workers’ compensation fee schedule. The Claimant argued that the higher-than-schedule fee transformed the physician into an independent medical examiner (IME) instead of a treating physician. As such, the JCC terminated the E/C physician and allowed the Claimant to receive a one-time physician change. The E/C claimed that it was an error to strike the physician based on a fee agreement.
Florida’s workers’ compensation code does not provide JCCs with authority to disqualify a treating doctor because a claimant was dissatisfied with the fee reimbursement agreement between the physician and E/C. Under Florida law, a JCCs role does not extend to resolving disputes about fee arrangements between treating doctors and E/Cs. Further, the workers’ compensation code permits higher-than-fee schedule agreements. Finally, the law does not provide claimants with a recourse for litigating complaints regarding reimbursements before a JCC.
In this case, the court reasoned that the JCC’s authority does not extend to striking a provider’s authorization in light of the law. Moreover, the court recognized that the form used by the E/C and doctor did not include the statutory language that the law requires. However, the E/C and physician amended their agreement before the Claimant‘s rescheduled appointment. Finally, the court found that the workers’ compensation code does not allow claimants to disqualify their E/C-authorized doctor before a JCC. As such, the court reversed the JCC’s final compensation order.
Workers’ compensation claimants should be aware that the law does not require employers to prepay a treating doctor above Florida’s statutory fee schedule. Further, claimants should understand the limited jurisdiction of a Judge of Compensation Claims. It is critical that workers’ compensation claimants seek assistance from an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney to preserve their remedies.
Contact an Experienced Florida Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
The attorneys at our office understand the importance of preserving employee rights and remedies after an injury. If you have suffered an injury at work or during the scope of your employment, the Florida workers’ compensation attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada can help you obtain benefits the law entitles. In addition to Florida workers’ compensation claims, our lawyers represent clients in cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, construction accidents, admiralty and maritime law, motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, premises liability, dangerous and defective products, and AirBnB Accidents. We have secured significant amounts of compensation on behalf of our clients. Compensation in these cases typically includes payments for medical expenses, ongoing treatment and rehabilitation costs, medical devices, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with an experienced lawyer on our team.