Workers’ compensation laws can be confusing to navigate. Minor details like choice of doctor can change the validity of your claim even if you believed you were in the right. Working with a workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate these claims and complex laws before you mistakenly make a decision that gets your claim invalidated or overturned.
In a recent case, a Florida court of appeals judge expanded the definition of “specialty” under Florida’s workers’ compensation laws. Under Florida’s law, injured workers can change their physicians once so long as the new physician is qualified in the same specialty as the original physician. Until now, though, courts had varying opinions on how broad “specialty” really was.
Facts of the Case
The claimant in the case sustained a finger injury while using a food press. She received emergency care and then was evaluated by a doctor who was a general surgeon and plastic surgeon with a specialty in hand surgery. The surgeon recommended surgery for repair of the claimant’s nerve and the placement of a pin. The surgeon did the recommended surgery and follow up for pin removal in his capacity as a hand surgeon. After the second surgery, the claimant requested a new physician and the employer’s insurance carrier authorized a doctor who was an orthopedic surgeon with a specialization in hand surgery. The claimant said that because the second doctor was not also a plastic surgeon, the second doctor did not have the required specialty according to the statute. The judge of compensation claims agreed with the claimant and granted the claimant’s request to name her own physician.
The Court’s Decision
The appellate court decided that the carrier’s choice of physician was appropriate and invalidated the claimant’s request. The judge said that the workers’ compensation statute was focused on delivering care that facilitated the employee’s return to employment, which required evaluation of the injury, course of treatment, and physician expertise. Because her injury was a hand injury that required hand surgery, a specialist in hand surgery was enough to further this goal. The new doctor did not have to also be certified in plastic surgery because that was not relevant to the claimant’s injury. Both the first doctor and the doctor authorized by the employer’s insurance were equally qualified to handle the claimant’s injury, according to the court, so the judge of compensation claims erred by granting the claimant’s request.
Florida Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you’re facing a complicated workers’ compensation claim and are unsure of the correct steps, contact an experienced South Florida workers’ compensation attorney today. The attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A. are experienced in a wide array of workers’ compensation issues from compensation benefits to denial of care and beyond. We understand that the process can be complex and overwhelming and are here to help you get the care and compensation you need. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney from our office, give us a call today at (877) 448-8585.