Florida Statute 440.13 governs the provision of medical care under Florida’s workers’ compensation system. For the most part, the Employer and its insurance carrier — “E/C” — control the provision of medical care.
The most dominant aspect of this control is the right to select the injured worker’s treating doctors. Unfortunately, most of these doctors suffer from the incurable “Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You” disease. All too frequently, the opinions expressed by these doctors benefit the E/C to the detriment of the Claimant.
On rare occasions, E/C loses control of the medical. The most frequent situation is where the worker has suffered substantial injuries requiring emergency surgery in the hospital. The natural sequence is that the surgeon, especially if he or she maintains a private practice, will remain the primary physician after the patient is discharged from the hospital. While this doctor is not hand-picked by E/C, he or she is also not hand-picked by the Claimant.
440.13(2)(c) gives E/C a “reasonable time period” to provide initial medical treatment and care. If E/C fails to provide the initial treatment and care, Claimant “may obtain such initial treatment at the expense of the employer.” Even still, E/C can regain control of the medical under this provision. In Carmack v. Department of Agriculture, 31 So.3d 798 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009), Claimant suffered a compensable accident, but E/C refused to authorize medical care for psychiatric issues arising from leg and back injuries. Claimant sought care with a psychiatrist and filed a Petition for Benefits seeking authorization of past and future care with the psychiatrist. The Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) ordered E/C to pay for treatment through the date of the final hearing (workers’ compensation trial), but not for continuing treatment with the particular doctor. Instead, E/C was able to choose another psychiatrist. The JCC’s ruling was upheld on appeal.