1st District Court of Appeal judges deny injured worker's request to switch doctors a third time

By Elizabeth Alt | Jul 5, 2017

TALLAHASSEE — The 1st District Court of Appeal has affirmed a trial court’s decision to deny a claimant’s request to switch workers' compensation doctors for a third time due to the statutory language.

Edwin Velez was injured May 21, 2015, and filed a claim for workers' compensation with Coadvantage Inc. and was authorized to see an orthopedic physician, Dr. Munson, according to court records. When Munson retired, Coadvantage authorized Dr. Weber as the new orthopedic physician. Velez filed a petition for benefits in 2016 seeking a new orthopedic physician, which he could do once under the statute of benefits.

After Coadvantage authorized the new doctor, Dr. Meinhardt, Velez filed another petition, requesting Dr. Murrah as his one-time change physician. Dr. Meinhardt was affiliated with the same practice group as his original orthopedic physician, Munson. Velez claims that the section of benefits that allows only a one-for-one exchange of physicians within the same specialty refers to his original physician, Munson. Coadvantage responded that it had already properly authorized the second doctor as the claimant’s one-time change.

Coadvantage filed a motion for summary final order, and the judge of compensation claims sided with the company, stating that the statute prohibited professional affiliation with only the immediately preceding authorized doctor, which in this case was Weber, who was not professionally affiliated with Dr. Meinhardt. Velez appealed.

Judges T. Kent Wetherell and Scott Makar concurred, affirming the trial court’s ruling.

Wetherell and Makar wrote that the “claimant’s interpretation would effectively rewrite the statute to say ‘a previous physician’ or ‘the previous physicians,’ thereby substantively reducing the pool of physicians that could qualify as a one-time change physician. We lack the authority to rewrite the statute in this — or any other— manner.”

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