Case Law Update – March 2013

ONE-TIME CHANGE OF PHYSICIAN

Joy Hinzman v. Winter Haven Facility Operations, Fla 1st DCA Case No. 1D12-2382 (February 18, 2013)

In this case at the Trial level, JCC Joseph Murphy ruled that the “five days” in ยง440.13(2)(f), Florida Statutes (2011), means business days rather than calendar days. This is the statute that controls the time period within which the E/C has the right to select the identity of the claimant’s alternative physician.
The First DCA reversed Judge Murphy’s ruling. The First DCA specifically held that an employer/carrier has only five (5) calendar days within which to authorize an alternative physician in response to an injured worker’s written request for a change of physician. As a result, weekends and holidays are included within the 5-day period and do not extend the time to respond.

Practical Application:

The Hinzman case clearly holds that the E/C must respond to and authorize a specifically named alternative physician within five (5) consecutive days of a written request or the claimant shall be entitled to select the identity of the physician. As you know, the selection of the treating physician can dramatically impact the outcome of a workers’ compensation claim. Employer/carriers should expect that claimant attorneys will routinely fax such written requests for an alternate physician on Friday afternoons. In the case of a holiday weekend, the adjusters will only have two days in which to respond in a timely manner. Thus, all requests for a change in physician should be dealt with immediately.