Case name: Johnson v. Ryan's Steak House, 16 FLWCLB 183 (Fla. JCC, Pensacola 2009).
Ruling: The judge of compensation claims granted the worker's request for authorization of a replacement hand specialist.
What it means:
Although circumstances can make locating a willing physician difficult, difficulty alone does not relieve a carrier of its obligation to provide an injured worker with reasonable and necessary medical care.
Summary: A worker burned her index finger in a compensable work accident. After she began complaining of numbness in her fingers, she was referred to a hand specialist. While she was undergoing treatment, the specialist died. The judge of compensation claims granted the worker's request for authorization of a replacement specialist.
The carrier immediately began to search for a replacement hand specialist, but was unable to find one in close proximity who would accept an injured employee. The judge of compensation claims determined that the carrier's discontinuance of its efforts without authorizing an appropriate replacement doctor meant it had failed to provide the worker with the required care and treatment under the Workers' Compensation Act. The JCC explained that although circumstances make locating a willing physician difficult, difficulty alone does not relieve a carrier of its obligation to provide the worker the requisite care. It granted the worker's request for a replacement doctor and ordered the carrier to authorize a neurologist to examine the worker.
The JCC noted that while the carrier's initial efforts may have prevented a finding that it failed to provide the worker with the requisite care and treatment, the discontinuance of its efforts meant it violated the requirement to authorize a replacement doctor. In this case, the evaluation, care and treatment of the worker's index finger ceased upon the death of the hand specialist. The JCC explained that if the carrier's efforts to locate a hand specialist were unsuccessful, it would have been reasonable for the carrier to locate and authorize an appropriate alternative physician.
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January 21, 2010
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