When an employee is injured at work, the employer is obligated to provide medical treatment, and the injured worker is obligated to accept and comply with the provided medical treatment. Transportation to and from medical appointments is subject to the same edict.
It is well established that the Commission holds the employer responsible for reasonable and necessary transportation costs in connection with an injured worker’s medical treatment. Thus, when an injured worker is unable to drive, or to be driven, to a medical appointment, and requests that the employer/carrier provide transportation, the employer/carrier must provide transportation or pay the reasonable costs of such.
But what happens if the transportation company refuses to transport the injured worker due to his or her use of profanity or otherwise abusive behavior? Or suppose the injured worker makes unreasonable demands from the transportation company? Just how far must the employer/carrier go to accommodate an injured worker’s transportation needs?
Unjustified refusal of medical treatment is grounds for terminating workers’ compensation benefits. An injured workers’ attitude toward medical treatment can rise to the level of refusal of medical treatment. For example, the Commission has found refusal of medical treatment where an injured worker was difficult and irate with the therapist during a functional capacity evaluation; the injured worker’s attitude interfered with the provided medical care. Similarly, if the injured worker interferes with the provided medical care by creating roadblocks to transportation to the appointments, that too may be considered refusal of medical treatment.
It is likely that the Commission will require that the employer/carrier provide at least a second chance. Therefore, arrange for transportation with another company. If the new service reports similar problems, then take appropriate steps to terminate benefits until such time as the injured worker is willing to comply with medical treatment, including transportation.
As a practice point, be sure to obtain written documentation from each transportation provider regarding the injured worker’s behavior and why it is unable to provide transportation to him or her – which can then serve as the documentary evidence needed to support the termination of benefits.