Can Your Own Doctors’ Professional Opinions Support Your Workers’ Compensation Case?
If you have never filed a workers’ compensation claim, you have probably heard that your employer gets to choose every doctor that treats you for your work injury and that your workers’ compensation claim will fall apart if you seek treatment for your work injuries by visiting your usual primary care physician and specialists within your health insurance network, even if it is employer-provided health insurance. If that sounds unrealistic, it is. The truth is more complicated. Florida workers’ compensation laws allow for “self-help” in terms of seeking medical treatment for work injuries and independent medical examiner opinions to resolve disputes with employers about whether the claimed injury is work-related or whether the worker needs more treatment. If the law did not allow this, then injured workers would have no choice but to wait, while their condition worsened, until the employer got its act together and chose a doctor or approved the doctor’s recommendation for a course of treatment; that would be expensive for employers and detrimental to the health of employees. When circumstances require it, you can start treatment for your work injury before all the paperwork for your employer, but your employer can and will look for excuses not to pay. If you need to see a doctor for your work injuries while still waiting for an answer from your employer, it is best to work with a South Florida workers’ compensation lawyer.
“Self-Help” Medical Opinions in Workers’ Compensation Cases: What Not to Do
In 2015, Dean experienced a sudden, sharp pain in his neck while lifting heavy objects at work. The pain was so intense that Dean briefly lost consciousness; he went to the emergency room by ambulance immediately after the incident, although his employer did not authorize this and denied from the beginning that Dean’s symptoms were work-related. While his workers’ compensation claim was pending, Dean received treatment from an orthopedist and a pain management doctor. The doctors diagnosed him with whiplash-type syndrome, which they determined was work-related and a small disc protrusion in his cervical spine, which they determined was a pre-existing condition.
After his employer denied the claim, Dean brought the case to court, presenting his doctors’ opinions as evidence. The employer argued that Dean could not “bootstrap” the opinions of doctors not authorized by the employer to give opinions on the workers’ compensation case. The court sided with the employer. The court reasoned that Dean could have made either doctor’s opinion admissible if, shortly after filing the claim, he had requested to have the employer appoint the doctor as an Independent Medical Examiner. Likewise, he could have asked workers’ compensation for a cash advance to seek treatment while the claim was pending, instead of simply taking matters into his own hands.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
A Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyer can help you protect yourself from your employer’s attempts to disqualify your workers’ compensation claim, or parts of it, on technicalities. Contact the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld for help with your case.