Monday, January 23, 2017

Reimbursement for Travel Expenses

Some injured workers live a considerable distance from the doctors they need to see for their industrial injury.  The gas money for these trips can add up and impose a financial burden.

Utah law (Rule 612-300-8) allows injured workers to be reimbursed for their travel expenses, including gas, meals and lodging, if two conditions are met:  (1) The travel is required, meaning the medical treatment cannot be obtained closer to home.  (2) The injured worker submits the claim to the adjustor within 12 months after the travel expenses were incurred.

Travel to pick up prescriptions is generally not allowed (unless you don't have a pharmacy in your community).  Lastly, the adjustor must pay the travel expenses within three months of receiving the claim, or when at least $100 of expenses have accrued, whichever is earlier.

Note:  The reimbursement rates generally change a little each year.  The Labor Commission publishes  a "Quick Reference" guide which is a great resource about the various workers compensation benefits and payment amounts.  The 2016 guide is available at  Go to "Forms/Publications" and then search for "Quick Reference".

Monday, January 2, 2017

Time Limits - Don't Delay!

Workers compensation claims typically do not get better with age.  In fact, Utah law requires injured workers to submit medical expenses to the employer or insurance carrier within one year.  That's right--only one year to get submit medical bills to the workers compensation carrier, so it is easiest to simply have your treating doctor send all bills to the workers comp carrier even if you think the carrier will refuse to pay.  Then, you can tell the treating doctor's office staff to bill your private insurance if the workers comp carrier refuses to pay.  Doing this lets you preserve your ability to assert these medical claims before the Utah Labor Commission.  After all, co-pays and out-of-pocket medical expenses can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Utah law says employees "shall provide notification to the employee's employer promptly of the injury."  Further, the law bars workers comp claims for injuries not reported within 180 days to the employer or to the Utah Labor Commission.  You might not trust that your employer will properly document your injury, so it is often wise to report the injury immediately to your doctor and make sure he or she notates that the injury happened at work, i.e., explain exactly how you got hurt at work.  

Some injured workers might think, 'Hmm, I think my back pain will go away and my boss will hassle me if there's a workers compensation claim.  I'll just take more Ibuprofen."  Many injured employees feel this way and it puts them in a bind, a catch .22:  If they report the injury to the employer, they may be fired (perhaps wrongfully).  If they do not report the injury and the condition gets worse and worse, then they may be harming their potential to get workers compensation benefits.  This is a real problem.  Workers Comp attorneys have ideas on how to both (1) preserve your job and (2) increase your ability to obtain the workers compensation benefits appropriate in your case.  Many attorneys provide free initial consultations.

Lastly, we have the 6-year statute of limitations for filing an application for hearing with the Utah Labor Commission.  This 6-year rule can completely bar your workers compensation claim, so as usual it is wise to call an attorney rather than wait to see what happens.  Attorneys can provide ideas on how to obtain necessary medical opinions and preserve your rights under the law.