Violation 1: Billing Patients who are receiving Workers Compensation benefits
If you are a medical provider sending bills to patients who may have suffered an injury compensable by workers’ compensation, you should be aware of consumer protection lawsuits. Under Florida law, a health care provider may not directly collect, receive a fee from, or bill a patient who is obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. The medical provider is only entitled to benefits through the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law. However, many medical providers do not properly document which patients are receiving workers compensation and inadvertently send a bill to the patient. While this may seem like harmless error, a single bill to a patient could cost the medical provider thousands in attorney’s fees.
There is a currently a consumer protection law firm in South Florida trolling social media for these exact cases. A workers’ compensation client comes to the lawyer’s office with a small bill for a couple hundred dollars or less. The law firm then files a lawsuit against the medical provider, seeking damages, a statutory penalty of $1,000, and attorney’s fees. The firm demands at least $5,000 for a quick settlement. And if a medical provider dares to fight the case instead, not only will they need to hire their own attorney, but if they lose, they potentially will owe thousands more in attorney’s fees to the consumer protection law firm.
Doctors need to upgrade their billing systems and train their staff to prevent these billing errors from occurring, as a single mistake could be very costly. Furthermore, in some cases, it can be difficult to prevent the mistake. For example, if the workers’ compensation claim commences after the initial doctor’s visit, but the doctor fails to update his chart on the second visit and sends the patient a bill, the doctor can be sued. Another typical error occurs when the patient never tells the doctor about the workers’ compensation claim, but there are hospital records indicating that the injury occurred at work. In some cases, the knowledge of the hospital records may be imputed to the doctor. Still more concerning, in many cases the doctor legitimately had no way of knowing about the workers’ compensation claim, but will still get hit with a lawsuit. Even in meritorious cases, the cost of defense is more than the cost to settle, and the consumer protection law firm will remind you of this fact.
If you are a medical provider and do your own billing, you need to be aware of consumer protection laws and do everything possible to avoid these lawsuits. Sending a bill to workers’ compensation patient is just one example of common mistakes providers make. There are several others. In all of these situations, the consumer protection law firm will sue the medical provider - with no warning. And make no mistake, the goal of these cases is attorney’s fees, and nothing else. The lawyers at the consumer protection firm will shamelessly admit it too.