Articles Posted in Medical expenses

by Allwin E. Horn, IV, head of HWCV Workers’ Compensation Department

IMG_3363-200x300In a recent year, the United States witnessed some 36,500 non-fatal workplace injuries and 5,200 fatal workplace incidents, according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Of the fatal incidents, 89 were in Alabama.

While it is true that people are injured on the job every day and are able to recover quickly without the loss of income, often the injury is severe and requires extensive medical treatment, lost time from work, and lost wages. In many cases, the injured employee cannot return to their pre-injury job duties due to the physical limitations caused by the injuries. Injured employees are entitled to several different types of benefits under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. They include:

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Any attorney that represents injured children has to consider the question of who has standing or the right to bring the claim on behalf of the injured child? Are the incurred medical expenses the parents’ claim or the minor child’s claim? And, what adult or person should serve as the representative for the minor child? These are just some of the many questions that arise in the context of an attorney’s representation of an injured child.

While the above questions will depend upon the state in which the injury occurred, this article focuses on Alabama law and how it views these issues. Essentially, Alabama allows the parent or the person representing the minor child to elect who makes the claim for medical bills, past and future, during the minority years. The parent, who likely incurred the medical bills, can bring the the claim in their individual capacity or, the parent can waive their right to bring the claim individually in favor of simply allowing the minor to pursue the claim through their representative.

The issue was first addressed in Cabaniss v. Cook, 353 So. 2d 784 (Ala. 1977); see also, Broughton v. Kilpatrick, 362 So. 2d 865 (Ala. 1978) (affirming the holding in Cabaniss one year later by reversing the trial court when it did not allow the introduction and admission of medical expenses on behalf of a minor suing by and through his mother as next friend). The Cabaniss Court directly addressed the issue of whether a minor child has the right to pursue medical expenses through a representative as opposed to the parent  pursuing said damages individually. In Cabaniss, Warren Cook, and unemancipated minor, sued by and through his father as next friend, for damages arising out of an automobile accident. Cabaniss at 785. In the Cabaniss opinion, the Court noted:

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