Florida law grants workers’ compensation insurance companies the exclusive authority to control the selection of the injured worker’s treating medical providers. Section 440.13(2), Florida Statutes (2017). This leads to carriers repeatedly selecting providers with a track record of siding with them.
Thankfully, the authority is not unbridled. One of the main restrictions concerns the proximity of the medical provider to the claimant’s community of residence. In Wright v. Golf Drive Residence, Inc., 412 So. 2d 884 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982), the JCC‘s decision requiring the claimant to travel from her home in Naples to Fort Myers for further treatment was reversed on appeal. The court reasoned that it was unreasonable for the deputy to require her to travel outside her home community in Naples where adequate treatment is available.* A similar result was reached in Hall’s Camp, Inc. v. Decker, 394 So. 2d 1041 (Fla. 1st DCA 1981), where the trial court was affirmed for ordering the carrier to pay for medical care provided by the only specialist in the claimant’s area. The appellate court held that it would be unreasonable for the carrier to have required the claimant to travel outside of her local Arkansas community for treatment by another orthopedic surgeon.
We are presently embroiled in such a fight in one of our cases. When our client was living and sustained a work accident in Palm Beach County, the carrier selected a doctor for her in the area. This doctor, a workers’ compensation regular, gave opinions unfavorable to our client. After she moved to Broward County and suffered another accident while working for the same employer at a different location, we asked for authorization of specialized medical care, per the prescription of a clinic doctor. The carrier responded by scheduling an appointment with a doctor located in South Miami, a 45 mile one-way commute from the claimant’s home through the teeth of heavy traffic. We rejected this offer and filed a Petition for Benefits seeking care in the area. The carrier responded by scheduling an appointment for the claimant with the original Palm Beach County doctor, a 30 mile commute one-way from her home. Interestingly, the day before we were informed of the Palm Beach appointment, the carrier notified the claimant of an appointment it had scheduled for her with a doctor on Pine Island Road, a hotbed of orthopedic specialists and just a few short miles from her home. The carrier cancelled this appointment in favor of the Palm Beach County doctor. We rejected the arrangement, and now await the carrier’s decision. In the meantime, our Petition for Benefits is pending.
Like with the carrier’s control of medical care, many things are unfair under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation System. When boundaries are breached, claimants must fight back.
*It may not be unreasonable for the carrier to select a doctor near the claimant’s workplace.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.
While prompt resolution of your legal matter is our goal, our approach is fundamentally different. Our clients are “people” and not “cases” or “files.” We take the time to build a relationship with our clients, realizing that only through meaningful interaction can we best serve their needs. In this manner, we have been able to best help those requiring legal representation.