Most employees in Alabama are covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Worker’s comp is a no-fault system that is set up to provide benefits for employees who suffer a work-related injury or illness, regardless of who is at fault. In exchange for the no-fault provision, employees are generally prohibited from filing a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.
Workers’ compensation provides coverage for medical bills, 2/3 of the employee’s average gross weekly wage (up to a maximum of $892 per week as of July 2019) for time missed from work, disfigurement, and permanent (partial or total) disability.
A worker may have a temporary total disability, in which case they would receive a full 2/3 of their average gross weekly pay (up to the aforementioned caps). On the other hand, an injured worker may be able to do some light work but not perform their full duties for a certain period of time. In this case, they are considered to have a temporary partial disability, which allows them to receive 2/3 of the difference between their previous wages (before the injury) and the wages they are receiving while on light duty.
Permanent total disability benefits are paid for extreme injuries that render the employee no longer to participate in any type of gainful activity. These benefits are paid for life. Permanent partial disability means you have a permanent disability that limits your ability to work. Benefits depend on the disability rating assigned by the treating physician and the body part that was permanently injured.
The maximum amount of weekly benefits for permanent partial disability is $220 for up to 300 weeks. In addition, if an employee has a serious disfigurement, they may be awarded 2/3 of their average gross weekly pay for up to 100 weeks.
An injured employee may also collect reimbursement for mileage travel to and from doctor’s appointments, and vocational rehabilitation (i.e., assistance finding a new job if the employee is unable to return to his/her current position). Family members can also receive death benefits for an injured worker who passes away, and reimbursement of up to $6,500 for funeral and burial costs.
It is important to note that workers’ compensation does not provide coverage for the pain and suffering and emotional distress that the injured worker has to endure. This is part of the tradeoff for providing “no fault” benefits.
The advantage of the “no fault” system is that it allows workers who are injured or become ill because of something related to their job to receive benefits without having to sue their employer and prove that their employer was at fault. That said, the worker’s compensation process is still far more complicated and confusing than it should be, and employers often put up unnecessary roadblocks designed to frustrate workers into giving up on obtaining the benefits they deserve. This is why it is highly recommended for injured workers to retain experienced legal counsel to help them successfully navigate the complexities of this process.
How Long Can You Get Workers’ Comp Benefits?
If you are approved for workers’ comp benefits, the employer must pay for 100% of the medical costs related to your injury or illness. There is no time limit on how long an employer must cover the medical expenses of an injured employee. The employer’s duty lasts for the lifetime of the employee, as long as the treating physician relates the treatment to the work-related illness or injury.
Because the employer’s insurer is covering the cost, they are also the ones who choose the doctor or facility where you will be treated. Right off the bat, this can become a major point of contention. Remember, your employer has a vested interest in keeping costs down and getting you back on the job sooner rather than later. For this reason, they are more likely to choose a doctor who will be more conservative, and shy away from expensive surgeries and other treatments.
If an employee is unhappy with the doctor that treats them, they can pick a replacement from a panel of alternative doctors that are once again chosen by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Unfortunately, injured workers in Alabama are not allowed to choose their own doctor, and they are usually only allowed to change doctors one time.
If an employee is receiving 2/3 of their average gross weekly wage for a temporary total disability, these benefits are paid until the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) or they are able to return to their previous job. If the employee has the temporary partial disability, benefits are paid for a maximum of 300 weeks.
Need Help with a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Alabama? Contact Burge & Burge Today for Assistance
Workers’ comp is a complex system that is not always easy for an employee to navigate. If you or someone close to you has suffered a work-related illness or injury and you are having trouble recovering benefits, Burge & Burge is here to help! Our attorneys have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to provide the strong legal representation they need and deserve.
Call our office today at 205-251-9000 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. You may also message us online or stop by our Birmingham office in person at your convenience.