Interpreter Lien Claimant Must Prove Its Services Were Necessary

March 21, 2011

To provide medical treatment to an injured worker, an employer must provide reasonably required interpreter services if the injured worker is unable to speak, understand or communicate in English. However an interpreter medical lien claimant has the burden of proving that its interpreter services were necessary, the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board has ruled in an en banc decision.

According to Guitron v Sante Fe Extruders and State Compensation Insurance Fund, a former employee of Santa Fe Extruders injured his left elbow while working as a machine operator. His case was resolved by Compromise and E&M Interpreting’s approximately $14,000 lien for the unpaid amount of its billing for Spanish interpreting services provided at medical examinations, chiropractic treatments, and physical therapy treatments from June 20, 2006, through February 9, 2007.

State Compensation Insurance Fund questioned whether E&M’s interpreting services were reasonably required to cure or relieve the effects of the applicant’s industrial injury, and whether SCIF had to pay for the interpreting services, when the workers’ compensation insurer believed some of the services were rendered in connection with work conditioning, that some were rendered in connection with physical therapy visits beyond the 24-visit cap, and that the interpreters were not certified.

The workers’ compensation administrative law judge (WCJ) found that the interpreting services rendered by E&M on June 20, 2006, and February 9, 2007, were reasonably required to cure or relieve the effects of applicant’s industrial injury, and that the remainder of E&M’s unpaid services were not reasonable or necessary. But E&M contends the WCJ erred in denying most of its lien for interpreting services provided during applicant’s medical treatment.

Because of the important legal issues regarding the right to payment for interpreting services during medical treatment, and to secure uniformity of decision in the future, the Chairman of the Appeals Board, upon a majority vote of its members, assigned this case to the Appeals Board as a whole for an en banc decision

“To recover its charges for interpreter services, the interpreter lien claimant has the burden of proving, among other things, that the services it provided were reasonably required, that the services were actually provided, that the interpreter was qualified to provide the services, and that the fees charged were reasonable,” WCAB said.

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