THIRD QUARTER 2019
By: Stephen P. Murray
In Nebraska, is mileage compensable for travel to and from necessary medical care?
Yes, mileage is compensable for travel to seek medical treatment and while participating in a vocational rehabilitation plan in Nebraska.
In Nebraska, mileage is compensable for travel to and from necessary medical care. Pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-120, an employer is liable for all reasonable medical, surgical, and hospital services. The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court has read this to include reimbursement of mileage for travel to and from any reasonable medical, surgical, and hospital services.
Mileage rate is not set by statute but rather by a yearly press release sent by the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. The current mileage rate in Nebraska is 58.0 cents per mile for travel to seek medical treatment or while participating in a vocational rehabilitation plan.
Not every mile logged and submitted by an injured worker is subject to reimbursement however. In Freddie Wilson v. JBS Holdings and American Zurich Insurance Company, 2016 WL 6142878 (Neb. Work. Comp. Ct.), Plaintiff opted for a surgery in Omaha when he lived in Grand Island. Defendant refused to reimburse the Plaintiff for his travels to and from Omaha, stating that it was unreasonable to expect reimbursement for such travel when there are just as qualified surgeons in Grand Island. The Court walked a fine line in this case, and although they did side with Plaintiff in terms of granting the award for reimbursement, they stated that “in reaching this conclusion, the Court does not mean, however, to suggest that an injured employee is free to choose without limitation any operating surgeon of his choice. Obviously, some degree of sensibility must attached….the plaintiff’s decision to engage in services of Dr. Beran in Omaha, Nebraska, does not appear to be unreasonable.”
It is imperative that once a log of miles is provided from a Plaintiff for reimbursement, those miles are reimbursed within 30 days to avoid additional costs imposed by the Court. In Tyler Frossenbacher v. Burghardt Plumbing Services, Inc., 2019 WL 1972291 (Neb. Work. Comp. Ct.), Plaintiff traveled to and from his accident-related health care providers and his vocational rehabilitation counselor for accident and vocational related services. On March 1, 2019, Plaintiff’s attorney submitted Plaintiff’s claim for mileage reimbursement to Defendant’s attorney with an itemization of the dates and mileage for trips to his medical providers and vocational counselor. Plaintiff’s attorney thereafter followed up with Defendant’s attorney as to the status of mileage reimbursement on three different dates after March 1, 2019 through and including March 31, 2019. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to stating that 30 days had passed with no mileage reimbursement. The Court found that Defendant had no justifiable reason why reimbursement had not been made and therefore ordered the sum of mileage reimbursement along with attorney fees.