Worker’s Compensation Doctors Requiring Waivers and Releases
Workers’ compensation in Florida provides two categories of benefits: indemnity and medical. Within the medical category, injured workers are governed by the limitations set forth in Florida Statute chapter 440.
When you get injured on the job, you have already given up your right to sue your employer in circuit court for simple negligence. Generally, you do not have the right to claim pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or other punitive damages. In addition, when your employer or insurance company provides you with a doctor under the workers’ compensation scheme, it is the doctor they choose to authorize. There are very few circumstances in which the insurance company does not have complete control over which doctors are authorized.
Injured workers must be careful. Over time, more and more benefits have simply been eliminated from the system. It’s a tough burden to get proper and efficient medical treatment when injured on the job. There are obvious hurdles and more subtle ones to overcome. One of the more subtle ones is making sure the doctors you are treating with are being up front and fair with you.
Sadly, certain medical facilities and doctors are attempting to force their workers’ compensation patients to waive even more rights in order to treat them for their work injury. These waivers should not be signed. Some attempt to make injured workers responsible for medical bills beyond what is allowed in Section 440.13. Others want to limit an injured worker’s ability to sue for medical malpractice.
These releases and waivers might occur when a person treats for personal health issues through their personal health insurance, but the difference is that person has the right and freedom to not use that doctor and go somewhere else. In the workers’ compensation scheme, the injured worker is generally limited to the doctor(s) the insurance company authorizes.
These releases are usually a part of the set of paperwork a patient gets when they first start treating at an office. They might be in the same stack of papers that have the medical history and questionnaire that are typical in most doctors’ offices. Medical histories, pain diagrams, and allergy information are all appropriate and normal for a doctor to gather in order to make an appropriate treatment recommendation. Injured workers must be very careful, however, not to accidentally sign these “extra” things by failing to read through these forms.
If you come across some of these releases, you must have a conversation with the doctor’s office. Ask if they require these in order to treat with that facility. If they do, then you must also weigh if you are willing to give up those rights in order to treat with that doctor. Most likely there will be alternate providers in the area that will not make you sign those types of releases. But, also be aware, the insurance company still retains choice of physician. They very well might set up an appointment with a doctor that has a bad reputation for treating injured workers. You have to do the research and discuss with local attorneys that are familiar with the doctors in the area. They will know which doctors or clinics require these type of releases and which ones are fair with injured workers.
Contributed by FWA Board Member Matt Carrillo .