One-time Change of Physician Rule in Florida

In Florida, you do not have the right to pick your doctor if you file a workers’ compensation claim. Most of the time the insurance carrier picks the doctor. Florida Statutes Section 440.13(2)(f) gives a worker the opportunity to change a physician once during the course of treatment for a work-related injury.

Once the change is granted and the employer or carrier notifies him or her, the original physician loses authority. The carrier must then authorize an alternative physician not professionally affiliated with the earlier physician within 5 calendar days after receiving the worker’s request. The worker can select the physician if the carrier doesn’t provide the name of the new physician.

Usually attorneys do not recommend that an injured worker change doctors during the early, occupational clinic stage. If you choose to change doctors at that time, you cannot again change doctors at the more important specialist stage. The second physician after your one-time change stays the doctor on the case unless the claimant moves or the initial treating physician no longer takes workers’ compensation cases or withdraws from the case for another reason.

In a recent Florida District Court of Appeals case the court considered a workers’ compensation case dealing with the “one-time change of physician” rule. In this case, the worker had requested the change in physician in October 2012. Her employer/carrier tried to make arrangements with a particular doctor who declined. The worker wasn’t told about this. The employer/carrier told the worker that he had an appointment with Dr. Sheikh on November 20. The worker notified defense counsel she wouldn’t see that doctor on the ground of untimely notice.

Next the worker faxed a petition to benefits to the employer/carrier asking to choose her doctor and naming a particular doctor as her choice. Meanwhile, the employer/carrier set up another appointment with the doctor it had chosen. The claimant filed a petition with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims.

In this case the administrative judge had interpreted the code section as giving the worker the right to pick a physician within five days, but said that if the employer/carrier exercised the right to pick an alternate physician, the worker lost that right.

The appellate court found the administrative judge had gone beyond the plaint language of the statute, explaining that the plain language allowed the claimant to pick a doctor if the employer/carrier failed to provide a change of physician within five calendar days. The appellate court noted that it had previously held a worker could not name a doctor 41 days after requesting a one-time change and 22 days after an employer/carrier had authorized an alternative physician.

Failing to show up to an appointment scheduled by the employer/carrier’s choice was not a waiver. The employer/carrier must timely respond by telling the worker the new doctor’s name. However, it does not need to schedule an appointment for the worker.

In this case, the worker had named her selection 21 days after requesting the change, the same day the employer-carrier had authorized an alternative physician. The court did not find a waiver in the fact she had failed to attend a particular appointment with the insurer-selected alternative physician. The appellate court reversed and sent the case back.

If you are injured while on the job, contact the experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank toll-free for a free consultation at (877) 448-8585.

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