Nobody wants to get injured at work. Pain isn’t fun and the truth is that having to treat with a doctor on a regular basis is an inconvenience. It’s even more of a hassle if you live in a rural area or have to travel a great distance to see the doctor.
A lot of our clients want to know if they can be compensated for having to go to and from the doctor, physical therapy or other medical appointments. The answer is usually no, but it depends on one important question. Is there someone in your local area that can offer medical care for you? If the answer is yes then you are not going to get reimbursed your mileage. If the answer is no then you will.
In a recent case, a worker traveled 106 miles to see an orthopedic surgeon for shoulder surgery. I get why they wanted to do that. They were in a rural area and going to a bigger city usually offers more and better choices. There were five round trip visits and at 57.5 cents per mile for 1,060 miles, this injured worker was seeking reimbursement for a total of more than $600.00.
The Courts turned him down. The problem for him was that he couldn’t prove that the type of treatment he was getting wasn’t available in his local area. The insurance company showed that there were surgeons at the local hospitals who operate on shoulders. The question isn’t will the treatment be as good. The question under the law is, is treatment available. I certainly wouldn’t want to go to an inferior doctor for surgery, but the Courts in Illinois don’t care. This is one of those cases where I’m not telling you what the law should be, but telling you what it is.
So the good news is that you can choose to see any reasonable doctor you want. The bad news is that you’ll have to pay for the travel unless you can show that you can’t find someone local who has the same abilities.
What hasn’t been defined is how far local is. In some rural downstate Illinois areas there might not be an orthopedic doctor within 30 miles. I’d argue that is far enough away that you should be reimbursed. It might not make or break the case, but when we are fighting for you it means we look in to every issue to see what benefits you might be entitled to. At the very least this issue should be used as leverage in settlement negotiations. And if you were traveling multiple times a week for therapy it’s probably worth going to trial over just this issue.
We are a Chicago based workers’ compensation law firm with a state wide network of attorneys who fight for their clients so we can help anywhere in Illinois. Call us at (312) 346-5578 to speak to an attorney for free.