A Closer Look at Workers’ Comp and Fair Debt Violations
Work-related trauma injuries and occupational diseases are very difficult to recover from. Many care providers make this process even harder. They demand payment for medical services, even though the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act expressly prohibit such demands. Sadly, many job injury victims give into these demands, mostly because these victims don’t know their rights.
These important rights, which are discussed below, are nothing but ink on paper unless a Tampa fair debt lawyer enforces them. Unlawful medical bill collection actions undercut medical bill payment, which might be the most important financial benefit in a job injury case. Job injury victims have almost no chance of full recovery unless they get the best available medical treatment and don’t have to worry about paying for it.
What’s Right and Wrong
Direct medical bill collection actions are quite common. Usually, hospitals have insurance rates and non-insurance rates for medical tests and other medical services. If a big health insurance company, like Blue Cross, doesn’t pay the whole bill, the hospital goes after the patient, no matter what the laws say.
These laws are very clear. Hospitals and other debt collectors may not even contact an injured worker to pay worker’s compensation medical debts. They also can’t sue or threaten to sue. They are also prohibited from contacting third parties (other than the worker’s lawyer and spouse) about the debt.
These laws are also complex. The FDCPA itself has many loopholes. The Supreme Court has expanded those loopholes in a string of recent decisions.
Collection agencies also frequently engage lawyers who focus on collections or creditor’s rights to pursue consumers in court. Those attorneys sue or threaten to sue as a tactic to demand payment. Such threats and lawsuits are prohibited by law.
Even so, hiring an attorney and threatening to sue or even actually suing does not mean the employee owes the debt. The debt collector must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant owes the debt. Such proof is often hard to come by if the account has changed hands several times. So, most good consumer protection attorneys can get these kinds of cases dismissed. Indeed, most cases should not even reach that stage if the worker is actively pursuing their rights rather than ignoring the problem.
What’s at Stake
Illegal collections actions hurt injured workers. Among other things, they suffer from stress, anxiety, and fear. Humiliation and anger also occur. These issues can trigger more severe injuries. For example, stress, fear, humiliation, and anxiety can easily lead to headaches, stomach ache, sleeplessness, eating problems, difficulty breathing, mood swings, and relationship issues.
In the most severe cases, such unlawful collections cause debilitating migraines, heart problems, and even sexual performance issues. Clients with fibromyalgia suffer from increased and longer-lasting pain, clients with diabetes endure chemical changes due to dietary fluctuations, and clients with heart disease or high blood pressure increase their risk of having a heart attack.
Therefore, a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer often obtains substantial damages in these cases. Undeserved stress, anxiety, and humiliation trigger more physical and emotional distress than meets the eye. Migraines, sleeplessness, headaches, stomach aches, bouts of anger, marital problems, and other similar manifestations are typical and often debilitating. Thoughts of suicide, self-medicating, and other harmful behaviors also often flow from medical collections.
Call a Hard-Hitting Hillsborough County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.