People can get injured at work in all kinds of industries and all kinds of workplaces, and when it happens, they are left with medical bills and other costs. When the injury is serious enough, they may be unable to return to work for extended periods, meaning they must go without income. Anyone who has ever faced medical bills while being unable to work knows this can quickly lead to financial disaster.
Fortunately, Florida’s workers’ compensation system provides a way for workers to pay for their medical care and some of their other needs after they have been injured at work. In theory, workers merely have to report their injury to their employer and then the employer’s insurance carrier will send the injured workers benefits to pay for their care.
In practice, the program is riddled with technical requirements and hurdles that can make it all too common for insurers to deny workers’ claims or to give them less than they need.
One part of the process where things can go wrong is with a simple visit to the doctor.
Your employer chooses your doctor
If you wish to receive workers’ compensation benefits, Florida law requires you to receive an evaluation by the doctor your employer (or your employer’s insurance carrier) chooses for you.
There are some exceptions to this requirement. For instance, if your injury means you need emergency medical care, the law won’t make you stop and ask your employer who to see.
What if you think the doctor made a mistake?
The doctor chosen by your employer is supposed to give you their professional opinion of your injury and whether you are ready to return to work. However, sometimes injured workers think the employer’s chosen doctor is downplaying their injury and telling them to return to work before they are ready.
If you think you think the doctor in your case has made a mistake, there are several steps you can take. First, simply ask the doctor about getting a second opinion. They might approve of the idea.
If the doctor won’t approve of you getting a second opinion, the workers’ compensation system allows you to make a “one-time change of doctor” request. As the name suggests, you can only do this once for any claim.
If you have gone through the steps above and you still disagree with your diagnosis, you may pursue another opinion, which is called an Independent Medical Evaluation. You must still get approval of the doctor through the insurance provider and you will have to pay for the associated costs.
How lawyers may help
Many workers’ compensation claims go smoothly, but many do not. Injured workers who are having trouble with their claims may seek out help from attorneys with experience in workers’ compensation law. Lawyers can advise them of their options and represent them in hearings if necessary.