Effective January 1, 2011, the rate paid for mileage reimbursement in connection with Illinois workers’ compensation cases increased to 51 cents per mile. An employee who sustains a work injury is entitled to reimbursement of certain travel related expenses.
Under Section 8(a) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305/8(a), an employer is required to pay all expenses, such as mileage and tolls, incident to necessary training for physical, mental, or vocational rehabilitation of an employee who sustains a work injury.
The employer may require an employee to submit to medical examinations under Section 12 of the Act, for the purpose of determining the nature, extent, and probably duration of the injury, and for determining the amount of compensation for disability that may be due to the employee from time to time. The employee is entitled to reimbursement for the expense of travel to the examination by the most convenient means. Typically such travel will be by auto and the employee must then be paid mileage, tolls, meals, and similar expenses.
The Act contains no requirement that the employer reimburse the employee for mileage related to obtaining medical treatment. Section 8(a) of the Act requires the employer to pay for all necessary first aid, medical and surgical services, and hospital services, which are reasonably required as a result of the employee’s work injury. In Illinois, the employee may choose the treating physician, as well as the hospital at which treatment is provided.
Absent a statutory provision requirement reimbursement of mileage for medical treatment, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission takes the position mileage for travel to obtain medical treatment within the employee’s local area is not a reasonable and necessary medical expense under Section 8(a) of the Act. However, the Commission applies a reasonableness standard as set forth in General Tire & Rubber Co. v. Industrial Commission, 221 Ill.App.3d 641, 582 N.E.2d 744 (1991).
In General Tire, the Commission had found that the employee was entitled to reimbursement of travel expenses incurred in obtaining medical treatment at a distance of approximately 100 miles from his home. The physician from whom the employee sought treatment had been his personal physician for a number of years.
The Appellate Court affirmed the Commission’s finding that the employee’s mileage was a reasonable and necessary medical expense. The court reasoned that the physician was most familiar with the employee’s medical history and condition, and that it was reasonable for the employee to seek treatment from him.
The Commission will employ a similar rationale in cases where a particular specialist or type of medical care provider is not available to the employee locally. However, allowance of reimbursement for mileage should generally be considered the exception to the rule. The employee will be required to show that the travel for which reimbursement is sought meets the standard of reasonableness described in General Tire.