Section 440.13(5)(e), Florida Statutes (2016) limits who may give medical opinions in Florida workers’ compensation cases.
(e) No medical opinion other than the opinion of a medical advisor appointed by the judge of compensation claims or the department, an independent medical examiner, or an authorized treating provider is admissible in proceedings before the judges of compensation claims.
The limitation tends to impair injured workers more than it does employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies (collectively referred to as E/C). The reasons have to do with doctor selection and money.
In Florida workers’ compensation cases, the E/C get to choose all of the treating doctors. See Section 440.13(2). Most doctors know that to continue being selected, they must give opinions favoring the E/C. While 440.13(5)(e) offers an avenue for claimants to present the testimony from medical providers other than those selected by the E/C, the opportunity is costly. An evaluation by an “independent medical examiner” can cost the claimant upwards of $1,500. While 440.13(5)(a) provides a way for claimants to be reimbursed, success is not guaranteed.
How many IMEs may a party have in a single case? Part of section 440.13(5)(a) reads as follows:
The employer and employee shall be entitled to only one independent medical examination per accident and not one independent medical examination per medical specialty.
Gomer v. Ridenhour Concrete and Supply involved the question whether the IME doctor selected by the claimant could examine him more than once over the course of the case. The E/C argued in the negative without exception. The First DCA disagreed, interpreting the statute to authorize the IME to conduct multiple independent medical examinations as the need for such arises with various different disputes.
Left unanswered by Gomer is the exception found in section 440.13(5)(b), Florida Statutes (2016), which provides for an “alternate” independent medical examiner under certain enumerated circumstances. The question was answered three years later in favor of allowing alternate examiners even though the proponent [for an alternate examiner] in that case did not meet the statute’s requirements. See Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital.
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