YOU AND THE LAW
Alabama Workers’ Compensation Law
Workers’ Compensation laws are designed to benefit the worker if he or she sustains and “on-the-job” injury. It is an accident insurance program that provides compensation, vocational rehabilitation benefits, and medical care for covered workers. Additionally, dependent benefits are available for the worker’s family in the event one dies in a work related accident.
Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation statute contains specific provisions such as reporting requirements and administrative procedures. If these requirements are not met, one’s claim may be adversely affected.
The Cochran Firm –Dothan feels it is important that the working men and women of Alabama have access to information which will help protect their rights should a work place injury occur.
The following information is intended to briefly address many of the routine questions asked by our clients during our many years of practice. It is not intended to represent legal advice because each case will have unique circumstances that an attorney will need to consider individually.
How do I know if my employer is covered by Workers’ Compensation?
The law requires any business with five (5) or more employees to have Workers’ Compensation coverage. There are exceptions to this rule including domestic servants, farm laborers, casual employees, common carriers engaged in interstate commerce and Federal and State employees. If you are uncertain your employer is covered, you should feel free to ask your supervisor if coverage is available.
When should I report an on-the-job injury?
Proper notice is a requirement before one is entitled to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Though there are exceptions, one is generally required to give notice within five (5) days of the accident or event which causes injury. You should report the injury to your supervisor as quickly as possible and provide complete details of how the injury occurred. Be sure some form of record is made to substantiate your report.
What is included in the term “on-the-job” injury?
Your claim should be covered if you are working within the line and scope of your employment at the time of an accidental injury. Occupational diseases and cumulative stress injuries may be covered as well. Workers’ Compensation claims may include illness or injuries which you may not consider job related. The key question is whether the injury or illness resulted from your employment.
How long do I have to work to be covered under Workers’ Compensation?
You are covered from the first day on the job. There is no waiting period.
What benefits are available under Workers’ Compensation?
Benefits include payment of all reasonable and necessary medical care, vocational rehabilitation, and compensation due to resulting dependents should a job related injury result in your death.
What medical benefits am I entitled to?
Your employer is responsible for all reasonable and necessary medical care including surgical and chiropractic treatment. Medicine, medical and surgical supplies, crutches, artificial members and other devices are also covered. In addition, your employer must pay the mileage costs to and from your doctor or other medical providers at the same rate paid for official state travel.
May I choose my own doctor?
You may choose your own doctor only if your employer agrees. If you wish to secure treatment on your own, the costs of such treatment will be your responsibility.
What if I am dissatisfied with the doctor my employer selects?
You are entitled to ask your employer for a different physician if you are not satisfied with your current treatment. The employer is obligated to provide a list of four physicians for you to choose from. The physicians so listed my not be members of the same partnership or professional corporation. This is a one-time option. If you become dissatisfied with the second physician, the employer is not required to provide a second list.
What do I do about selecting a doctor?
Once your employer is notified of your injury and need for medical care, you should be directed to a physician or other appropriate medical provider. The choice of who shall provide treatment is made by your employer.
May I refuse recommended medical treatment prescribed by the authorized physician?
If you refuse to accept any reasonable examination, physical rehabilitation or surgical procedures recommended by your authorized treating physician, your rights to compensation may be suspended for the duration of such refusal. There are exceptions to this rule, and any recommended procedure must balance the related risks against the anticipated benefits.
How long will I receive medical benefits?
Medical benefits are available for your lifetime as long as the treatment is related to your work place injury and it is considered reasonable and necessary by the authorized treating physician.
When do I receive my monetary benefits?
If your authorized treating physician indicates you are unable to work due to your work place injury, compensation begins the fourth day after you are injured. If the disability continues for twenty-one (21) days, compensation for the first three days is due and payable with the first payment made after the expiration of the twenty-one day period.
How much will my weekly monetary benefits be while I am unable to work?
These benefits are known as temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. You are entitled to two-thirds (2/3) of your average weekly wage, not to exceed the maximum benefits allowed by law. The maximum amount is established by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations pursuant to the provisions of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. This figure is adjusted on an annual basis.
How long will I receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits?
TTD benefits are keyed to your physical condition. Such benefits are payable as long as your authorized treating physician indicates you are unable to work. These benefits cease when your treating physician declares you have reached maximum medical improvements (MMI).
What benefits are due if I have a permanent-partial disability?
Once your treating physician declares you at maximum medical improvement, he or she will determine if you have a permanent / partial disability (PPD). The benefits due as a result of such disability will depend upon a number of variables including the physical impairment rating, your average weekly wage, physical restrictions mandated by your doctor, your educational level, and your employment history.
What benefits will I receive if I lose a leg, arm, finger or other body part?
Compensation due because of the loss of a specific body part is set out in the Act. The benefits are stated in terms of weeks of benefits (e.g., 43 weeks for the loss of an index finger). These schedules state the minimum due. Depending upon the circumstances of your particular case, you may be entitled to additional benefits.
Is there a difference between a medical impairment rating and a vocational disability rating?
Yes, there is a very important difference. Your doctor assigns a medical impairment rating based upon an assessment of the impact an injury has had upon your physical capabilities. The vocational disability rating takes into account the impact the injury has had upon your ability to secure gainful employment. The medical impairment will generally define the benefits due as compensation for the injury itself, while the vocational disability will define benefits due because of a reduced access to the job market.
What benefits will my dependents receive if I am killed due to a work related accident?
One dependent shall be entitled to on-half of your average weekly wage (subject to maximums established by law) for a period of no more than 500 weeks. If you leave two or more dependents, they are entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage for no more than 500 weeks. In the case of a spouse, benefits are terminated if the dependent dies or remarries.
Will my estate receive benefits if I die leaving no dependents?
In the event you leave no dependents, your employer is obligated to provide a one-time lump sum payment of $7,500 to your estate. The employer will also pay up to $3,000 for burial expenses whether you have dependents or not.
How much will an attorney charge for handling my Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The attorney’s fee is subject to Court approval at the time your case is settled or concluded through litigation. The fee is generally 15% of the compensation and/or vocational benefits recovered. The attorney’s fee does not include the value of medical benefits paid.
Can I be compensated for occupational related diseases?
If you contract a disease arising out of and in the course of your employment due to hazards greater than those ordinarily occurring in the work place, you may receive benefits. Whether this provision of the law applies is best determined on a case by case basis.
Can I be compensated for repetitive motion injuries (such as carpal tunnel syndrome) that occur over a period of time?
Yes. Physical injuries caused by cumulative trauma are compensable if they arise out of, and in the course of, your employment.
Are there instances where I will not receive benefits under Workers’ Compensation act if I am injured on the job?
Yes. Listed below are some examples of circumstances which may preclude benefits:
- When the accident is caused by your own willful misconduct
- When the injury is caused by your use of alcohol or illegal drugs
- When the injury is caused by your willful refusal to use a safety appliance provided by your employer
- When the injury is caused by your willful refusal to comply with known safety regulations
You should remember you have a right to challenge a denial of benefits in court.
Can I be terminated for reporting a work place injury or unsafe condition?
Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act prohibits termination of an employee solely because he or she suffers a work place injury or reports an unsafe condition.
What is the statute of limitations for a Workers’ Compensation claim?
Generally speaking, an action for Workers’ Compensation benefits must be filed within two years from the date of Injury or from when you last receive compensation benefits (e.g., TTD) due to the injury.
Can I receive monetary damages in addition to Workers’ Compensation benefits if I am injured on the job?
Yes. Certain circumstances permit an employee to pursue what is known as a “third-party” case which allows for a recovery outside the Workers’ Compensation act. Examples include injuries caused by a defective product, the negligence of someone not employed by your employer (such as a general contractor), or an automobile accident. The question of whether your particular claim gives rise to a third-party case may best be addressed by an attorney.
Can I sue my employer or co-employees for monetary damages in addition to Workers’ Compensation?
Yes, under certain circumstances. Examples include an injury caused by an intentional act designed to cause injury of the removal of a safety device which would have prevented your injury. Again, whether your situation presents such a claim may best be addressed by an attorney.
Should you have questions concerning your rights related to a Workers’ Compensation matter, please feel free to call The Cochran Firm – Dothan.
There is no charge for an initial consultation.