- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on November 8, 2016
Getting hurt on the job can be a very traumatic event. Your life can be changed for the worse—not only are you physically hurt, but you risk not being able to perform your job duties any longer and you possibly risk losing your job completely. Depending on the injury, you may not be able to work in your industry at all any more. The lack of ability to provide for yourself and your family leads to emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of self-doubt and loss of self-worth. The loss of income possibly results in losing your home to foreclosure due to an inability to pay your mortgage, which could also in turn result in strife within the marriage. All of your dreams and plans for the future are crushed.
Now add to all of these problems the fact that the medical provider has been relentlessly attempting to collect money from you for the medical services that were provided as a direct result of the workplace injury, even though you are struggling financially due to your loss of normal stream of income. Your worker’s compensation attorney sends the medical provider a letter informing them that their exclusive remedy is to file a claim for services with the worker’s compensation board and participate in that process. Your attorney also informs the medical provider that they are not to attempt to contact you directly anymore, because California Labor Code 3751(b) specifically prohibits them from collecting the bill for services from you directly.
Their responses to your attorney’s letter, however, is to retain an outside collection agency who then proceeds to continue collection efforts from you personally. They call you repeatedly at all hours of the day; they send you letters with ominous threatening language. They claim the debt is increasing because of interest and costs and fees, and they threaten that the debt is going to be a negative mark on your consumer credit report. All of this adds to your stress, anxiety, and depression because you thought you were protected and you thought they were going to faithfully comply with your attorney’s instructions to file a claim with the worker’s compensation board.
You lose sleep; you lose faith in the worker’s compensation process; you lose faith and trust in your attorney; you worry about how these bills are going to get paid; you worry about how you will be able to move forward with negative items on your credit report that you are not supposed to be responsible for….
Thankfully, you can go after these unscrupulous companies who are so quick to degrade you and ignore your rights!!
California Labor Code Sections 4600, 5300, 5304, and 5955 provide the basis that the worker’s compensation board has exclusive jurisdiction to handle payment of medical debts that are the subject of a workers’ compensation claim. In order for the medical provider and/or debt collector to seek reimbursement for their medical services, they must submit a claim to the workers’ compensation board so that the board can determine the appropriate amount of pay for the employer and/or employer’s insurance company to provide to the medical providers. If the medical provider and/or debt collector is not satisfied with the board’s ruling, then their sole remedy is to file a petition for reconsideration pursuant to California Labor Code § 5900 and then appellate review pursuant to California Labor Code § 5950.
However, California Labor Code § 3751(b) provides that medical providers shall not collect money directly from the employee for services to cure or relieve the effect of the injury for which a claim form, pursuant to Cal. Lab. Code § 5401, was filed, unless the medical provider has received written notice that liability for the injury has been rejected by the employer and the medical provider has provided a copy of this notice to the patient. Any medical provider who violates Cal. Lab. Code § 3751(b) shall be liable for three times the amount unlawfully collected, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
Semnar & Hartman, LLP regularly ties such unlawful debt collection tactics into a claim for either or both of the Federal or Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Acts, since those laws prohibit any attempt to collect an unauthorized amount in connection with consumer debts. Click HERE to review a complaint recently filed against Scripps Memorial Hospital and Progressive Management Systems for contacting the employee directly several times in complete disregard of a letter sent by the employee’s worker’s compensation attorney.
If you or a loved one are proceeding through a workers’ compensation board claim, but are still receiving debt collection bills and/or phone calls, please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible for a free, confidential consultation about your rights.