Articles Tagged with workers’ compensation

caduceus-1219484-m-212x300The Oxford Dictionary defines peer review as “a judgment on a piece of scientific or other professional work by others working in the same area.” It is a commonly used procedure with a variety of scientific and medical matters.

Florida’s workers’ compensation statutes are located in Chapter 440. Peer review is referenced at section 440.13(1)(o) as follows:

“Peer review” means an evaluation by two or more physicians licensed under the same authority and with the same or similar specialty as the physician under review, of the appropriateness, quality, and cost of health care and health services provided to a patient, based on medically accepted standards.

There is little other jurisprudential instruction to explain the pertinence of peer review in workers’ compensation cases.

Last week I received a “Peer Review” report from a doctor hired by the workers’ compensation insurance company in one of our cases. In the doctor’s opinion, a shoulder surgery recommended by our client’s authorized doctor “does not meet established treatment standards of medical necessity.” The peer review report was generated in response to a Petition for Benefits we had filed seeking authorization of the surgery. A few days later the workers’ compensation carrier filed a formal response to the Petition for Benefits in which it agreed to authorize the surgery. This is not the first time I’ve experienced a similar about-face involving peer review.

I don’t know why the carrier went to the trouble and expense of this so-called peer review. First, the statute requires the review to be done by “two or more physicians.” This review was done by one physician. Next, while 440.13(r) and (s) express an interest in “Utilization control” and “Utilization review,” neither the statute nor case law instruct how or even whether peer review functions to address utilization concerns or disputed medical benefits.

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law-booksDuring every initial workers’ compensation client interview, I spend time explaining that Florida’s workers’ compensation system does not pay benefits for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Most people don’t know this. I reiterate the point during various stages of the case, especially as we approach settlement discussions. Nothing prevents fair and reasonable settlements more than expectations based on misapprehensions of the law.

The statutory authority for this limit on non-economic damages in workers’ compensation cases is found in Florida Statute 440.11(1):

The liability of an employer prescribed in s. 440.10 shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability, including vicarious liability, of such employer to any third-party tortfeasor and to the employee, the legal representative thereof, husband or wife, parents, dependents, next of kin, and anyone otherwise entitled to recover damages from such employer at law or in admiralty on account of such injury or death….

The “at law” provision encompasses non-economic damages, and the limitation is commonly referred to as “workers’ compensation immunity.” Injured workers bound by this provision are limited to receiving medical and indemnity benefits through the workers’ compensation system contained in Chapter 440 of Florida’s statutes.

“[A]t law” non-economic damages are available in personal injury cases. A key element of every personal injury case is that the harm resulted from, at a minimum, another person’s or entity’s negligence. 440.11 bars personal injury claims against co-workers and employers for mere negligence. This is “workers’ compensation immunity.”

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