WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS IN ALABAMA

Tuscaloosa Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

One glance at the Alabama Department of Labor website or handbook confirms that Workers’ Compensation claims in Alabama involve a bottomless pit of rules, regulations, time limits, procedures and numerous pitfalls for the injured worker. Most people who have been injured on the job are uncertain as to what financial benefits they should receive, what medical treatment to which they are entitled, what to expect from their employer and/or its workers’ compensation insurance company, or  even how to report an injury and seek benefits.  Before you take any action, you should meet with an attorney in person to discuss the specifics of your situation in order to receive advice appropriate to you and your on-the-job injury.

Many workers’ compensation claims involve minor injuries and short term medical treatment.  In those cases, the claim is handled without difficulty between the injured employee and his/her employer and its insurance company.  However, in cases involving more severe injuries, requiring long-term treatment, the loss of the ability to work, or even death, these claims are often disputed by the employer and/or its workers compensation insurance company.  It is in these types of cases that attorneys become involved to help ensure that the injured employee receives the benefits to which he/she is entitled under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.

Reporting Your Claim Injury

If you are injured at work you should report the injury in writing immediately to your direct supervisor or another person in charge.  Do not assume that merely talking with your supervisor is sufficient.  Providing written notice will prevent any claim in the future that you did not tell your employer about how you were injured and your initial impressions of the extent of your injury.  Be sure to take a copy of your written notice.  Be sure to include in your written notice the name of every possible witness to the event that caused your injury, as well as the name of any supervisors or co-workers you spoke with about the incident.

Documentation

Documentation is critically important in every contested workers’ compensation claim.  It is impossible to know at the outset of a claim whether there are going to be problems.  As such, you should always keep a diary or a log of everything that occurs with respect to your injury, your claim, your treatment and the like.  Be sure to list dates, times and places of conversations, including the names and contact information regarding persons involved.  You can be assured that your employer and/or its insurance company are keeping extensive records.  Do not view this as preparing for a fight from day one.  Rather, you are simply keeping good records in case they are needed at a later date.

Northport Workers’ Compensation Attorney

You Are Entitled To Medical Treatment

If you are injured on the job, you are generally entitled to payment of all medical expenses related to that injury for your entire lifetime.  These benefits include doctor visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions, braces, devices, surgery, physical therapy and mileage to/from your doctor visits and trips to other healthcare providers.  Sometimes, employers will ignore some or all of these benefits and may even encourage and injured employee to seek his/her medical treatment on his private health insurance as a way for the employer to avoid paying for workers compensation benefits.  It is important to remember that medical benefits are available for a compensable on-the-job injury generally so long as your physician is on the opinion that the treatment is related to that injury, no matter how long it has been since the injury occurred.

Under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer has the right to select the doctor who treats you.  If, on the other hand, your employer refuses to authorize medical treatment following an injury, you should contact an attorney immediately, as, if other circumstances are right, you may then be authorized to seek treatment from any physician you choose.  If you are dissatisfied with the doctor your employer has selected for you, you have the right to request a “panel of four,” which is a list of four other physicians from which you may pick one to serve as your new physician.  If you are dissatisfied with your original doctor, you should consult an attorney prior to making any selection from such a list, because your workers compensation attorney should be able some insight regarding the physicians on the “panel of four” list.  Remember that the employer and/or employer’s insurance company assembled the list that you are allowed to choose from. That list normally includes physicians whom they feel will be more sympathetic to the employer than the injured employee.

You May Be Entitled To Receive Monetary Benefits While You Are Recovering From Your Injury

Generally, an injured employee is entitled to receive monetary benefits while a doctor has him/her off from work during the period of recovery from the injury.  These benefits do not begin until you have missed at least 3 days of work as a result of the work.  You should receive two-thirds of your average weekly earnings, paid on the same schedule that you receive your regular pay check.  In other words, if you are normally paid every two weeks, you should expect your Workers’ compensation check every two weeks.  If you are a worker who frequently is called upon to work overtime, the employer and the employer’s Workers’ compensation company may often calculate your average weekly wage based upon your 40-hour week rather than your actual earning history.  You should consult your attorney regarding calculating what your rate of monetary benefits should be while you are recovering.  Be sure to bring complete records regarding your earnings during the year prior to the date of your injury with you when you meet with your attorney.  If you have worked less than a year for the employer, bring the pay records that you have.

PERMANENT INJURY OR PERMANENT LOSS OF ABILITY TO WORK BENEFITS

Often, an injured employee receives benefits for a short period of disability while recovering from the injury, ultimately returning to work with no permanent problems.  However, more serious injuries do occur and may result in permanent physical disability, the inability to perform the same job, or even the inability to work at all resulting in permanent total disability.

The rules regarding entitlement to permanent disability benefits are complex and take into account a number of different factors.  Unfortunately, the calculations mandated by the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act are very conservative and are not generous at all toward the injured worker.  Rather, the Alabama Workers’ Compensation System is designed to protect the employer and the employer’s insurance company.  It is your attorney’s job to maximize your recovery under the Workers’ Compensation Act, although that amount will never be adequate to fully compensate you for the long-lasting impact of your injury.

When Should You Discuss Settlement With Your Employer?

Often, the Workers’ Compensation insurance company or your employer’s compensation manager will approach you early on in the process to settle your claim for a small amount. Never accept any settlement offer without first discussing it with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

For a Free Initial Consultation please call: (205) 556-6712