Being injured on the job can be a shocking experience, especially if the injury is severe enough that the worker requires medical care, or worse – is unable to return to work for a period of time. Fortunately, for workers who are harmed while performing a work-related task, workers’ compensation insurance is designed to pay various benefits. However, while the workers’ compensation system should fully compensate those who are injured at work, there are often complications during the claim process, and an employer or insurer may wrongfully deny an employee their full benefits.
At the law office of The Cochran Firm, our Alabama workers’ compensation lawyers can provide you with the level of quality representation that you need and deserve. Please call our law office today to learn more about your rights and how we can help.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a type of no-fault insurance system that employers in Alabama are required under law to carry; per the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Law, all employers with five or more employees, regardless of whether those employees are full-time or part-time, must offer workers’ compensation (with few exceptions). Failure to do so can result in penalties.
This type of insurance is designed to mitigate litigation, providing workers who are injured in a work-related accident, as well as those who incur an occupational illness through the course of employment, with compensation. Because of the fact that workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, workers who are injured on the job do not have to establish the negligence of another party in order to recover benefits, nor may they be barred from recovery if their own negligence contributed to the accident. In exchange for no-fault benefits, however, workers forfeit their right to bring a personal injury suit for damages against their employer.
Benefits Available in an Alabama Workers’ Compensation Claim
Workers’ compensation provides medical benefits to injured workers, as well as wage replacement benefits in some cases. The full list of potential benefits available in a workers’ compensation claim include:
Medical benefits – You are entitled to compensation for all necessary and reasonable medical expenses.
Temporary disability benefits – If you need to take more than three days off of work due to a workplace injury, you are entitled to temporary disability benefits. These benefits are only paid at a rate of ⅔ of your average weekly wage priorto the incident.
Permanent disability benefits – If you suffer an injury that is so disabling that you are permanently unable to return to work (permanently and totally disabled), you will be entitled to permanent total disability benefits. These benefits are paid for life at a rate of ⅔ of your average weekly wage. If your permanent disability is partial–which means that you are able to perform some work, you may be entitled to a scheduled award (for disability of a certain body part), unscheduled award (for disability of a body part not listed on the schedule), or/and payment for disfigurement.
Death benefits – When a workplace injury results in death, a surviving dependent is entitled to 50 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage prior to death; if the decedent is survived by two or more dependents, the compensation award is increased to ⅔ of the average weekly wage prior to death. Funeral expense benefits are also available.
Other benefits – Other benefits that may be available in a workers’ compensation claim include mileage reimbursement benefits (for medical care) and vocational rehabilitation benefits.
Remember that wage replacement benefits are only paid in the event that an injured employee misses three or more days of work (benefits start on the fourth day of missed work). Payments should be made to the injured employee within 30 days.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Alabama
If you are injured on the job, there are certain things that you need to do in order to preserve your right to benefits.
Report your injury – The very first thing you should do–assuming that you do not require immediate and emergency care–is to report your injury and accident to your supervisor. While you should always do this immediately, in no case should you wait more than five days – waiting more than five days to report an accident could serve as a bar to recovery.
Get medical treatment – You have the right to emergency treatment if you require it. If not, you should seek medical treatment from a provider who is approved by your employer/workers’ compensation insurer. If you seek treatment from your own doctor (who is not approved by your employer), the treatment will not be covered under workers’ compensation.
Know deadlines – Not only should you be aware of the five-day limit for providing your employer with notice of your accident, but you should also be aware of the general workers’ compensation claim statute of limitation should you need to file a claim on your own. All claims for compensation must be filed within two years of the date of the workplace accident (or within two years of the last workers’ compensation payment made in claims where benefits have been initiated).
Hire a workers’ compensation lawyer – Even if you think you have a straightforward claim and your employer is cooperative–or even supportive–having an attorney on your side is recommended. Your attorney can help to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve, that you are not released back to work before you are ready, and that your claim is not unfairly denied.
Workers’ compensation claims can be complex, and employers and insurers are often on the lookout for ways to diminish claimant’s benefits. If you have been injured on the job and are filing a claim for workers’ compensation, don’t risk losing out on the benefits you deserve. When you call our Alabama workers’ compensation lawyers at The Cochran Firm, we will review your case for free, take your case on a contingent basis, and work diligently on your behalf. Please call us today at (205) 994-8555 or 1-800-THE-FIRM or send us a brief message telling us more about your workplace injury.