Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

Work injury form
There are essentially three benefits provided to injured workers through Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act:

  1. Medical Benefits: As long as you are receiving treatment for an injury that arose out of and in the course of your employment and that is provided by a doctor authorized by your employer or its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, then you should not have to pay anything out of your pocket for your medical care. An injured worker cannot choose the doctor who will provide care for his or her injury. You must go to the doctor that is authorized and approved. If you are not satisfied with the approved treating physician (ATP), then you are allowed one opportunity during the course of your claim to choose a different doctor from a panel of four physicians provided by the employer or insurance carrier.
  1. Temporary Total Disability (TTD) or Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) Benefits: If you are unable to work as a result of your injury, you are entitled to Temporary Total Disability payments.  The payments should equal 2/3 of your average weekly wage (determined by reviewing your prior earnings over 52 weeks).  If you are able to work, but are not paid the same as your pre-injury wage, you are entitled to Temporary Partial Disability payments to increase your wages to 2/3 of your pre-injury average weekly wage.  Either of these benefits will be paid during the time of disability and normally cease when your approved treating physician states that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).

Woman with broken arm

 It’s no secret among lawyers in Alabama that our Workers’ Compensation Act provides very minimal benefits to workers who are injured on the job. In fact, Alabama law provides the nation’s lowest workers’ compensation benefits for amputations. Therefore, knowledgeable personal injury attorneys will always try to find another avenue to recover compensation in addition to workers’ compensation benefits.  This is especially important when a client suffers a severe or life changing injury on the job.  The circumstances of how an injury occurred may allow a lawyer to recover additional compensation for an injured worker.    While the majority of injured workers will be limited to workers’ compensation benefits, there a few exceptions in which additional compensation may be pursued:

  • When the injury was caused by the negligence of a “third party”

        Under Alabama law, you cannot sue your employer or even a co-worker for simple negligence if you were injured on the job.  This is the case even when an injury is clearly the fault of the employer or a co-worker.  However, if the person/entity who negligently injured you was not your employer or co-worker (i.e. a “third party”), you can bring a claim against that person/entity for compensation in addition to workers’ compensation benefits. The most common situation involves an automobile wreck. For example, if you are a delivery driver and another person runs a red light and injures you while you are making deliveries, you would be entitled to both workers’ compensation benefits and damages from the other driver. Other examples include injury by a defective product while on the job or being injured on a job site by someone acting as an independent contractor.

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     If you suffer an injury while performing your job for your employer, the most important thing you should do is REPORT THE INJURY TO YOUR EMPLOYER IMMEDIATELY. Tell your supervisor, manager, human resource department or another person with authority.  Do not just mention an accident to a co-worker and assume that your employer has proper notice of the accident.  It is best to report an injury through some type of recorded writing, whether it be text message, e-mail, or other type of written document.    Reporting can be made in person or through a phone call but is best if there is a witness to the conversation.  If you suffer a serious injury and need emergency medical care, then you should seek medical help immediately. However, you must still report the accident to your employer as soon as possible.

       Notifying your employer about an injury is important because there is a specific provision in the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act that requires an employee to provide written notice of an injury within five days after an accident.  Although the courts have not strictly enforced this time limitation and have allowed claims to proceed where there is good cause for delay or the employer has actual notice of the accident, the best practice is to provide notice as soon as possible.

       It is also important to make some type of documentation recording the details of how your accident happened, what part of your body was injured, whether your injury was immediately painful or disabling or if it worsened after time. You should also keep a record of the persons who witnessed an accident and if possible take pictures of the scene of the accident, any equipment or materials that were involved in the accident as well as the portion of your body that was injured if it is a visible injury.