Order Providing Discounted Benefits for Pre-Existing Condition Overturned in Florida Workers’ Compensation Case

In City of Fort Pierce v. Spence, an employee was hurt in a 2012 work-related car accident. Following the collision, the man’s employer admitted that his claim was compensable. An authorized physician recommended that the worker undergo a number of procedures on his back, including facet injections and orthopedic surgery. In a deposition, however, the doctor stated a degenerative spinal condition that was diagnosed prior to the accident was about 70 percent responsible for the worker’s need for the facet injections. The doctor also said the condition was normal for a man who was the worker’s age. Following a hearing before a Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”), the man received a discounted award related to the facet injections. In addition, the JCC denied the man’s orthopedic surgery claim.

On appeal, Florida’s First District stated the medical evidence offered in the case suggested that the man’s pre-existing degenerative condition was the major cause of his need for the facet injections. The court held that the JCC misapplied the law when she took into account the physician’s statement that the man’s back disorder was normal given his age. According to the appellate court, the relevant inquiry was whether the underlying condition independently required treatment before the employee was hurt at work. Since the medical evidence suggested it did, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District overturned the JCC’s award for the facet injections and affirmed her decision on all other counts.

After that, the court turned to the worker’s cross-appeal. The appeals court agreed that the JCC committed error when she excluded certain medical testimony stating the employee required orthopedic surgery under Section 440.13(5)(e) of the Florida Statutes. Despite this, the appellate court said the error was harmless because the JCC stated in her order that she rejected the doctor’s opinion regarding the cause of the worker’s back pain. The court said a JCC in Florida is authorized to reject a medical opinion as long as a reasonable basis for doing so is reflected in the evidentiary record.

Employers in Florida are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance was designed to protect Florida employees who suffer an injury at work regardless of accident fault. The amount of workers’ compensation benefits a worker is entitled to receive varies based on the extent of the employee’s injury. In general, a worker may be entitled to recover compensation for his or her temporary or permanent disability, medical bills, and other damages. A capable South Florida workers’ compensation attorney can explain your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits in greater detail.

If you have questions about your rights following a serious Florida workplace injury, you should contact the reliable Miami personal injury advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. to discuss your case. To speak with a quality workers’ compensation lawyer about your situation, call Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. today at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

City of Fort Pierce v. Spence, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2014

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