I have a Worker's Comp/3rdparty liability case arising out of an MVA. The 3rdparty auto insurance wants to settle with the standard 1/3 to WC subroation, 1/3 to the attorney, 1/3 to client agreement. EMSA filed a lien early on but WC has paid them about half of their bill. They won't release their lien. Is there any authority stating that EMSA has to release their lien and take the WC payment as payment in full?
Answer: Your client doesn't owe the bill.Baptist Medical Center of Oklahoma, Inc. v. Aguirre, 1996 OK 133, 930 P.2d 213, 217-18:"The worker's statutory right to be relieved from the costs of medical treatment for a compensable injury is accommodated not so much by jurisdictional boundaries that separate the cognizance of the district court from that of the compensation tribunal as it is by the distinct concepts of legal obligation owed by the employer, the insurer and the worker. The interplay of these divergent liabilities is governed by the WC Act.Section 14of the Act makes the employer responsible for the injury-related medical treatment of a covered employee.The employer's liability extends to those claims for necessary medical services which have been presented and allowed by the WC court. Until the trial tribunal has ruled otherwise, the primary obligation of the employer is fully co-extensive with that of the injured worker. Before the WC court has either imposed upon orabsolvedthe employer from liability, the worker is to be regarded as immune from individual accountability that would be imposable in the district court for self-procured health care expense arising from treatment of a compensable injury."
See also Thomas v. Okla. Orthopedic & Arthritis Foundation, Inc., 1995 OK 47, 903 P.2d 279, 286: "If a worker is injured by reason of a job-related accident, reimbursement for reasonable and necessary medical treatment may be awarded to the worker.The right to recover charges for medical care provided for personal injuries arising out of and in the course of covered employment lies solely within the Workers' Compensation Court."
The ambulance lien does not attach to the bill covered by Workers' Comp. The ambulance lien statute, 85 O.S. Sec. 49, provides: "The lien shall not be applied or considered valid against any claim for amounts due pursuant to the provisions of Title 85 of the Oklahoma Statutes."
If the ambulance service won't release the lien, sue them for a construction of the lien and that it does not apply to your third-party case. You should get an attorney fee in that suit. See: Luetkemeyer v. Magnusson, 2007 OK CIV APP 45, 162 P.3d 970: Physician liable for patient's attorney fee in removing lien as improper.