Am I Allowed to Choose Which Doctor I go to for Injuries Suffered in a Workers' Compensation Accident?
Florida law requires that the employer, usually through its insurance company, provide an injured worker with medical care for injuries resulting from a workplace accident. In most instances, Florida law allows the employer or insurer to choose the doctor that you see.
However, pursuant to Florida Statute 440.13 an injured worker is allowed a one time change in doctors. “One time” means just that: for the entire lifespan of the workers’ compensation case, the injured worker does not have the right to change doctors a second time.
Because the one time change cannot be elected more than once, it is important that the timing of the change be considered. If a claimant’s injuries are not fully diagnosed, it may be best to wait even if the claimant is not happy with his or her current doctor. For example, if the claimant is having severe neck pain but an MRI has not been performed, it may not be the best time to change doctors. This is because the claimant may end up needing surgery. If he or she does not like the surgeon assigned, it would be extremely beneficial if the one time change had not already been used.
After the workers’ compensation insurer has been notified of the election to change doctors, it has five days to respond. If the insurer does not do so, the claimant can pick any doctor of his or her choosing – a major advantage in obtaining quality and thorough medical care as the doctors picked by the workers compensation insurers tend to be extremely conservative in their diagnoses, care and referrals to specialists.
Once a change has been made, the initial doctor no longer has the authority to see the injured worker. If a claimant switches doctors and realizes he or she liked the first doctor better than the second, there is not much that can be done. As such, consulting with a lawyer before exercising your one time change in doctors is always a good idea.
After the one time change has been used, the claimant can still see other doctors in other specialties if the primary treating doctor makes such a referral. However, the one time change cannot be used to switch to a doctor practicing a different specialty. For example, in a January 2017 decision, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal (which hears appeals from Jacksonville cases), held that a claimant was not entitled to switch from a primary care doctor to an orthopedist. Instead the worker was only allowed to switch to another primary care doctor. Of course, if he or she thought it was appropriate, the new doctor could then refer the claimant to an orthopedist.
If you have questions about your rights following an on the job injury, please feel free to contact our Jacksonville lawyers. Consultations are always free. We are happy to discuss your situation over the phone, at the office or at a place convenient for you.