Supreme Court Closes Fair Debt Practices Loophole
Affirming a lower court ruling, the Florida Supreme Court agreed that injured workers deserve additional protection from medical creditors.
Two providers, Sheridan Radiology Services of Pinellas, Inc., a subsidiary of Sheridan Healthcare, Inc. (Sheridan);and Laboratory Corporation of America and Laboratory Corporation Of America Holdings (Labcorp), treated a woman for work-related injuries. The workers’ compensation insurance company didn’t immediately pay the bills, so these creditors illegally demanded payment from the victim.
After the woman filed a legal action, these creditors tried to hide behind Department of Financial Services regulations and nitpick words. But the court overruled that argument, holding that “proper interpretation requires consideration of the entire text, in view of its structure and of the physical and logical relation of its many parts.”
Job-Related Medical Bills
Medical creditors, like all other creditors, just want money. They don’t care whose rights they have to violate to get it, or who signs the check. So, a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer is a job injury victim’s best line of defense, and usually only line of defense, in these situations.
Medical bills in job injury cases are often extremely high. After a fall or other trauma injury, these bills usually include:
- Transportation Costs: A short ride in an ambulance could cost about $4,000. A brief helicopter medevac flight could cost ten times as much, or even more. Insurance companies often refuse to pay these bills, claiming that a lesser form of transit, like an Uber to a hospital, would have sufficed.
- Emergency Care: Many job injuries happen many miles away from the nearest hospital. So, by the time doctors have a chance to treat these victims, their injuries are already quite advanced. The additional medical intervention on the front end leads to more, and more expensive, intervention on the back end.
- Follow-Up Care: After doctors finish initial treatment, a process that often requires several surgical procedures, victims usually remain in hospitals for at least a few more days, for observation purposes. Basic hospitalization usually costs about $3,000 per day. So, the victim’s medical bills keep mounting up.
- Physical Therapy: Unfortunately, we aren’t finished yet. During extended recovery periods, muscles atrophy. A physical therapist must work long and hard to restore lost function. Even then, some permanent loss, such as reduced range of motion in an ankle, is usually inevitable.
Occupational disease, like hearing loss, often cost even more that trauma injuries. However, these expenses are spread out over time, often over a lifetime.
Who Pays These Bills?
Generally, the law requires workers’ compensation insurance companies to promptly pay these expenses directly.
Frequently, insurance companies drag their feet and refuse to pay them, citing the aforementioned differences over a reasonable amount of medical bills. Other times, the insurance company remits partial payment. In both cases, medical providers usually seek payment from victims.
A Tampa fair debt attorney protects victims both before and after these payment demands come in the mail.
In a few cases, an attorney can connect a job injury victim with an independent doctor who charges nothing upfront. Since the bills don’t come due until the case is resolved, the problem is solved. Additionally, thanks to the above Supreme Court ruling, a Tampa workers’ compensation attorney can file an action in civil court under fair debt collection practices laws. These laws prohibit medical creditors from demanding payment from a party who isn’t financially responsible for the bill.
Work With a Savvy 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.