When Do Mileage Expenses Begin to Accrue?
Tracy Page v. Southern Care, Inc. – Where an employer is liable to pay mileage expenses under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, the mileage costs to and from medical providers should be measured from the employee’s home.
In 2008, a judgment was awarded to Tracy Page and against her employer Southern Care, Inc., arising out of a workers’ compensation action, pursuant to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act (Ala. Code § 25-5-1 et seq.). Since that time a dispute arose as to the mileage expenses owed to Page for the years 2014 and 2015. Page claimed to be owed expenses of $7,921.80, but the trial court awarded him only $560.51. Upon appeal, he Alabama Court of Civil Appeals published its opinion on the matter on September 16, 2016. Tracy Page v. Southern Care, Inc. [Ms. 2150451], — So.3d — (Ala.Civ.App. 2016).
Under the 2008 judgment, Southern Care remained liable for Page’s future medical expenses, including payment of mileage to and from doctor and pharmacy visits. During 2014 and 2015, Page worked as a traveling nurse and frequently worked out of state. She returned home to Gadsden on the weekends. Her medical providers and pharmacy were located 86.5 miles and 7.5 miles from her home, respectively.
Page claimed the mileage she was owed was for the distances traveled back to her medical providers and pharmacy from her out-of-state work locations, rather than the mileage from her home.
The applicable law is Alabama Code 25-5-77(f), which reads: “The employer shall pay mileage costs to and from medical and rehabilitation providers at the same rate as provided by law for official state travel.” While this code section directs that an employer is responsible for the payment of mileage costs to and from medical providers, it does not state when mileage costs to the provider begin to accrue or from the provider ceases.
To answer the issue of when the mileage costs commenced and ceased, it was necessary for the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals to determine legislative intent. The legislature expressed that employers should bear only the “reasonable and fair cost” of medical services. Ex parte Southeast Alabama Med. Ctr., 835 So.2d 1042, 1050 (Ala.Civ.App. 2002). Mileage costs are considered a form of medical expenses, as they are addressed under the medical benefits portion of the Workers’ Compensation Act. See Ala. Admin. Code (Dept. of Labor), Rule 480-5-5-.36.
The appellate court found that Page should only be able to recover “reasonable and fair” mileage costs. It would be unreasonable to require Southern Care to incur the mileage costs of Page’s work-related travel, because the travel was not reasonably necessary for Page to obtain her authorized medical care. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals upheld the trial court’s determination that Southern Care should only reimburse Page for the travel between her home and her medical provider and pharmacy.
Stated more concisely, under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, specifically Alabama Code § 25-5-77(f), in all cases, mileage expenses to and from medical providers should be measured from the employee’s customary residence.