As discussed previously, the Florida employer/carrier has the right to not only select the initial occupational clinic, but also the right to select the initial specialist. The Florida Workers’ Compensation Act does afford the injured worker the right, once during the life of their case, to make a request for a one-time change in treating physicians. However, except in very unusual circumstances, the carrier retains the right to select the one-time change physician.
The only exception to this general rule of a carrier’s right to select is if the carrier does not respond to the claimant’s request for a one-time change physician within five days. Under that circumstance, the individual would be permitted to select his or her own physician.
Given the fact that the injured worker has the right to a one-time change only once throughout the life of a case, it is important that this right be exercised only at an appropriate time in the case. For example, it is usually not recommended to have the injured worker take advantage of his/her right to one-time change at the occupational clinic level. This is because to do so would eliminate the right to make a one-time change at a more critical stage in the case, such as at the specialist level.
Once the injured worker requests a one-time change in treating physicians, the initial physician is immediately de-authorized (no longer permitted to provide treatment). The injured worker is then required to stay with the newly appointed physician for the remainder of his/her case, except in unusual circumstances unless that physician were to refer the claimant to another type of specialist. The only way to get a new physician would be if the claimant were to move to another area, or if the initial treating physician were to no longer accept workers’ compensation cases, or withdraw from providing treatment for some other reason. Otherwise, the claimant is required to remain with the one-time change physician for the life of his/her case.