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Travel Expenses

Travel Expenses in Worker’s Comp Are Not Always Reimbursable. By Matt Fendon, Esq. One of the frequent questions I get is a workers’ compensation attorney is whether travel expenses for attending medical treatment are reimbursable. As perplexing as this may sound, the majority of the mileage gained on one's vehicles and fuel dollars lost by traveling injured workers is not reimbursable. Travel reimbursement benefits are authorized under the Worker's Compensation Act here in Arizona based on an interpretation of ARS-1062(A) by one of the cases mentioned below. There are our only a handful of cases that address the issue of travel reimbursements. Martinez v. Industrial Commission, rejected a claim by an injured worker for travel reimbursements from traveling from his Peoria home to Phoenix to obtain medical treatment related to his claim. Martinez, 175 Ariz. 319, 856 P.2d 1197 (App. 1993) The second case is Carr v. Industrial Commission, 197 Ariz. 164, 3 P.2d 1084 (App. 1999). That decision provided worker’s compensation practitioners with the answer they frequently relay to their clients and other injured workers when they ask about travel reimbursements to their doctors’ appointments. Essentially, that case held that travel expenses are reimbursable if an injured worker is traveling for medical treatment "outside the area in which he or she resides." Id. at 165-66, 3 P2d at 1085-86. In that case, the closest place for the injured worker to obtain his physical therapy was a 230 mile round-trip from his home and the administrative law judge found that he could not afford to travel that distance without reimbursement. That case reasoned that denying an injured worker's reimbursement of travel expenses "effectively denied him the medical treatment to which he had a right under our workers' compensation law." Id. at 166-67, 3 P.2d 1086-87. Believe it or not, as I write this article, I am staring at a newly issued opinion that will be published that further discusses entitlement to travel reimbursements. According to Drew v. Industrial Commission, travel reimbursements are not recoverable if they are more than two years old. No. 1 CA-IC 12-0044 (App. 2013). In that case, Drew, who lives in Prescott, was injured on the job. He had an accepted workers compensation claim and in approximately 2011 he submitted travel claim forms to the insurance carrier for transportation expenses incurred between May 2005 and October 2006. The insurance carrier denied these reimbursements based on the fact that ARS 23-1062.01(C) has language in it that mandates that medical bills be submitted “within 24 months from the date on which the medical service was rendered.” This dovetails with ARS 23-1062(A) as mentioned above which was essentially interpreted to include travel reimbursements as part of the medical benefits awarded to claimants. As a claimant's attorney, the Drew case is not a favorable decision. It creates a hardship on injured workers in my opinion because they now have the burden of submitting their travel expenses within two years of incurring them. Many unrepresented injured workers have no idea that travel reimbursements are even an option for them. It is a frequent occurrence that someone comes to my office who has had an open claim for some time and was never reimbursed their travel expenses. The effect of this decision prevents me as their newly-retained attorney from obtaining reimbursements for them that are over two years old. In summary, injured workers are entitled to travel reimbursements when they have accepted workers’ compensation claims and are required to travel outside the greater metropolitan area of where they reside to receive medical treatment, as long as they submit claim forms to the insurance carrier within two years of them happening. As always, please feel free to email me (mfendon@fendonlaw.net), or call me (602-842-1133) with any worker’s compensation questions or comments.

Categories: Workers' Compensation