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MEDICAL DEBT COLLECTIONS TRYING TO COLLECT ON A BILL SUBJECT TO WORKER’S COMPENSATION

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on April 10th, 2015

 

Suffering a significant injury while on the job can be very traumatizing and life altering. Not being able to perform the job that one was once able to perform can cause a serious blow to one’s emotional stability and self-confidence, and the lack of ability to provide financial stability to one’s family is severely unfortunate. Insult to such injury is added when medical debt collectors fail to submit their billing liens to the workers’ compensation board and persist in attempting to collect from the injured employee directly. Thankfully, the law provides protections against such unfair debt collection tactics.

California Labor Code Sections 4600, 5300, 5304, and 5955 provide the basis that the worker’s compensation board has exclusive jurisdiction to handle 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 such services, they must submit a lien 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. 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 their patients 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. 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.

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MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES: HAD YOUR PROPERTY SOLD, FORCLOSED, OR REPOSSED DURING DEPLOYMENT? YOUR RIGHTS MAY HAVE BEEN VIOLATED!

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on February 20, 2015

 

The U.S. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act at 50 U.S.C.S Appx. §537 prohibits anyone from enforcing a lien sale or executing a repossession lien—without first obtaining a court order—upon the property or effects of members of the armed forces during deployment and up to 90 days after return from service. The goal for such a prohibition is so that the servicemember can dutifully serve his or her country with honor, and without having to carry the stress and anxiety over whether their property back home will be safe and secure. A violation of this prohibition is a misdemeanor crime, and can be punishable by up to one year in custody and fines. Additionally, a servicemember whose rights have been violated can pursue a civil lawsuit against the violator and recover damages sustained as a result of the violation in addition to attorneys’ fees and costs of pursuing litigation.

A lawsuit recently filed by Semnar & Hartman, LLP alleges that a vehicle auto-body shop called Pro Custom in Oceanside, California violated this very prohibition. The Complaint can be read by clicking HERE

This lawsuit alleges that Pro Custom promised to hold the servicemember’s car during his period of deployment and promised to safely store the vehicle until his return from deployment. The servicemember then left for approximately 7 months of deployment only to find out upon his return that the vehicle had been sold through a non-judicial lien sale. The lawsuit alleges that Pro Custom sold the vehicle to recover only $2,200.00 for services, and even though the vehicle was worth approximately $14,000.00 the servicemember has not been provided with any finances that would make up the difference between the amount Pro Custom sold the vehicle for and what Pro Custom claimed was owed to them. Even after the member inquired as to why Pro Custom sold the vehicle after they promised to safely hold it upon his return, Pro Custom claimed he abandoned the vehicle and still failed to provide him with any proceeds from the sale.

The lawsuit further alleges that Pro Custom has been continuing to take out of the servicemember’s bi-weekly paychecks money for services performed on credit prior to the member’s deployment, even though Pro Custom seized the property when they sold the vehicle and has recovered any finances alleged to be owed to them for the services on credit by keeping all of the proceeds of the sale. The lawsuit alleges that this conduct is a violation of the California Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, for unfair and oppressive conduct, misrepresentations and false statements as to what Pro Custom is owed, and for taking action that cannot legally be taken.

The lawsuit is seeking actual damages for the servicemember for the loss of the value of the vehicle, loss of use of the vehicle, emotional distress and mental anguish for not having a vehicle for the past 10 months and having to beg for rides from friends to attend his physical therapy sessions for an injury sustained during deployment, recovery of all monies taken by Pro Custom for the services previously performed on credit, recovery of all monies the member has paid to the vehicle financier since his return from deployment, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. Moreover, because Pro Custom regularly advertises to military members and claims to “Support our Troops”, this lawsuit is also seeking punitive damages as a means for punishing them for their egregious unlawful conduct and to prevent future abuses against other military members.

If you or a loved one are deployed or about to be deployed, please know that you have rights when it comes to your property. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights and whether your rights may have been violated.