LEAVING THE STATE WHILE A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM IS OPEN
By Molly Ocampo, Attorney
We often have clients who need to move out of state for various reasons while their workers’ compensation claim is open and/or is in litigation. This situation can present various issues for the injured worker and their attorney. Arizona Revised Statutes § 23-1071(A) provides that “[n]o employee may leave the state of Arizona for a period exceeding two weeks while the necessity of having medical treatment continues, without the written approval of the commission. Any employee leaving the statue of Arizona for a period exceeding two weeks without such approval will forfeit the employee’s right to compensation during such time, as well as the employee’s right to reimbursement for the employee’s medical expenses, by reason of the violation of this section, will not be compensated.”
If a claimant needs to leave the state of Arizona for longer than two weeks while they are receiving benefits, or while their claim is in litigation, it is very important that they request permission from the Industrial Commission prior to their departure. If the claimant is represented, their attorney will request the permission on their behalf. If the worker leaves the state without permission, the insurance carrier can suspend all of their benefits, including their temporary benefits, if a physician has them off of work or on modified duty. The Commission usually will grant a claimant’s request to leave the state, absent unusual circumstances.
As a practical matter, it may not be a good idea for a claimant to leave Arizona while their claim is open. If the claimant is getting medical treatment under their claim, they will be responsible for finding a physician in the new state to take over care. This can be difficult because the doctor assuming care may not be knowledgeable about the Arizona workers’ compensation scheme. Additionally, the doctor assuming treatment would be paid for their services based upon the Arizona Fee Schedule, rather than the rates in their state. Finally, the claimant may need their doctor to testify if the claim goes into litigation. It can be very difficult to work with an out of state doctor when it comes to testifying, because they are not familiar with the laws and procedures in Arizona, and the Industrial Commission's subpoena powers are very limited.
Even if a claimant gets permission to move out of state and finds a doctor to take over their treatment, they may still be required to return to Arizona periodically for hearings or independent medical evaluations. If the claim goes into litigation, the claimant will need to present to testify at the initial hearing, unless the Judge grants permission for them to testify telephonically. The insurance carrier is entitled to have the claimant evaluated in an independent medical evaluation from “time to time” so travel would be required for those appointments as well (although the Carrier would have to reimburse the claimant for their travel expenses).
An injured worker should always consult with their attorney before leaving the state of Arizona for longer than two weeks, to evaluate how that would affect their case.
For more information on Workers' Compensation or Social Security Disability, please contact Snow, Carpio & Weekley toll-free at 855-325-4781 or visit our website at www.workinjuryaz.com. We serve the entire State of Arizona and have offices located in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma and Lake Havasu City.