On August 21, 2008 the Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding workers compensation and attorney fees. It ruled that the Workers' Compensation Appellate Commission correctly awarded attorney fees to a claimant whose medical bills were not paid until he hired an attorney and sought relief from the Workers' Compensation Agency.
The Court ruled that attorney fees were appropriate. In Harvlie vs. Jack Post, Docket No. 276044, the magistrate found that plaintiff’s counsel was entitled to an attorney fee (30%) under MCL 418.315(1) with regard to the unpaid medical bills. The magistrate agreed with plaintiff’s counsel that “the bills would not have been paid but for the fact that he filed a petition.” Moreover, because the bills were not paid within 30 days of their receipt, the magistrate ordered defendants to pay a $1,500 penalty. Further, the bills were to be paid by the insurance company, and not the health care provider who benefited by the attorney's efforts.
Upon review of the case it would appear that attorney fees on unpaid medical bills are not appropriate in every case. In this case the employer/insurance carrier had refused to pay medical bills after first being ordered to do so. It appears that the recalcitrance of the insurance carrier led to the award of attorney fees. The Court stated,
". . . it is not the compensability of the medical bills, but the ongoing failure, neglect or refusal to pay, which allows the magistrate the discretion to order the attorney fees."
MICHIGAN COMP LAW is written by RONALD W. RYAN. I have practiced workers' compensation law since 1991. Should you have any questions about workers' compensation law, or need representation, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (269) 553-1424.