In addition to the right to make a one-time change in treating physician, Florida workers’ compensation law also grants an injured worker the right to an independent medical examination one time throughout the life of his/her case. An independent medical examination is different from a one-time change in treating physician in several respects. First, an independent medical examination is a single examination with no right to ongoing treatment. Second, except under circumstances where the employer carrier is utilizing a managed care system for the delivery of medical treatment, the injured worker is required to pay for his/her own independent medical examination.
These examinations can be quite costly, typically ranging anywhere between $1,000-$2,000.00 for a single examination.
Typically, the purpose of requesting an independent medical examination is to get the opinion of a truly independent physician, one who is selected by the injured worker. Frankly, given the lack of choice associated with the initially selected physician, or the one-time change physician, it is often essential to have the opinion of a physician in whom the claimant can be confident will render an objective, neutral opinion.
However, the claimant is not reimbursed for the cost associated with the independent medical examination unless it can be demonstrated that the independent medical examiner’s opinion ultimately was responsible for securing benefits that had been denied by the carrier. An example of this might be where an insurance company has denied the medical necessity of a surgical procedure. If the claimant files a petition for benefits seeking authorization for the surgery, and that surgery is established to be medically necessary as a result, in large part, of the claimant’s independent medical examiner’s opinion, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier can be obligated to reimburse the claimant for the costs associated with the independent medical examination. Otherwise, if the independent medical examination does not result in the securing of any specific medical benefit, the injured worker must bear the full cost of that independent medical exam.