Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in Birmingham
Accidents and injuries often happen at the workplace. If you are suffering from a work-related injury, you are entitled to compensation from your employer for lost wages, medical bills, and permanent disability. The workers’ compensation system applies if you are injured on the job, even if you are unable to work or perform your prior duties.
Our attorneys at Burge & Burge can help you determine the nature and severity of your injury, as well as how it interferes with your work. We then take that information to determine your eligibility for benefits. Sometimes these factors are disputed. Your employer may not agree with the degree to which your injury interferes with your work, or even the extent of the injury, which can result in your benefits being denied. Your employer or their insurer may also deny you on a technicality, which happens frequently because of the complex and confusing nature of the workers’ compensation process.
Whether you are temporarily or permanently disabled, our workers’ compensation lawyers at Burge & Burge will work hard to help you secure the benefits you need. We have successfully represented workers suffering from injuries sustained in all types of work-related accidents.
Some industries run a higher risk of these types of accidents. These include:
- Commercial Truck Driving
- Oil and Gas
- Power Line/Utilities
- Welding, Pipe Fitting, and Other Skilled Trades
- Health Care
Examples of common injuries that occur on the job include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Industrial accidents
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Car accidents
- Construction accidents
- Machinery accidents
- Slip and fall injuries
- Exposure to toxic substances
What does Workers’ Compensation Insurance Cover?
Workers’ compensation is a system that is designed to provide benefits to injured workers regardless of who is at fault for the accident or event that causes the injury. Most Alabama employers with five or more employees are required to carry workers’ comp insurance, and if your employer has it and you get hurt on the job, you are not required to prove that it was the employer’s fault in order to recover benefits.
Because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, benefits are more limited compared to the compensation that can be recovered through a personal injury lawsuit. Employees are entitled to the following benefits through workers’ comp:
- Temporary Disability: If an employee needs to take at least three days off of work due to a work-related injury, they are entitled to receive two-thirds of their average gross weekly wage for the time they miss. The first three days are unpaid unless the employee ends up missing at least 21 workdays, and there is a cap on the gross pay an employee is eligible for. This cap is adjusted annually. If an employee has a temporary partial disability that allows them to work but prevents them to work at full capacity, they are entitled to two thirds of the difference between their current wage and the wage they receive during the time they are only able to perform limited work.
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD): With this classification, your doctor may allow you to go back to work as you recover. He or she may limit the amount or type of work you can perform to that which is appropriate to accommodate your disability. State law requires you to accept modified or part-time work if your doctor approves it and your employer offers it. You may be eligible to receive TPD payments for up to 300 weeks or until reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI) if you earn less than you did before your injury.
- Permanent Disability: After injured employees receive full medical treatment, they are assessed to determine if they have a permanent disability. If this is the case, a worker would be eligible to receive weekly workers’ comp benefits for life. This could be a permanent total disability that leaves the worker unable to perform any type of gainful activity, or it could be a permanent partial disability in which an employee can still work, but they are physically unable to perform their previous job. Benefits are calculated based on the type and severity of the disability.
- Additional Benefits: Injured employees who are eligible for workers’ comp benefits also receive coverage for all necessary medical treatment, mileage reimbursement for travel to and from doctor’s appointments, vocational retraining if an employee is unable to return to their previous job, and funeral costs and death benefits for families of an employee who is killed on the job.
Unfortunately, workers’ comp does not provide compensation for various non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. In addition, in nearly all cases, you cannot sue an employer to claim damages for these losses.
All that said, there are times when you may be able to recover compensation for non-economic losses. This may be the case when an injury was the fault of third party other than your employer. Examples of third parties who may be responsible for workplace injuries include:
- A careless subcontractor who is working with or nearby an employee;
- The owner of an outside property (such as a hotel or conference center) where an employee slips and falls and gets injured during a work-related function;
- The driver of a vehicle that causes a car accident involving an employee while on the job;
- The manufacturer, supplier or distributor of a defective product (such as a piece of machinery) that causes an accident.
When a third party causes an injury to a worker who is on the job, they may be able to sue the at-fault party for damages over and above what they are already receiving through workers’ compensation.
Types of workers’ compensation cases we handle include: third party claims, permanent and temporary impairments, and claims from auto plant workers.
Additionally, the following circumstances can negate your request for benefits after you have already filed a claim:
- Willful misconduct, such as refusal to use safety equipment
- Use of alcohol or illegal drugs
- Caused by a fellow employee for personal reasons
- Your intention to cause injury or death to yourself or another employee
- Neglect to perform a statutory duty
Unfortunately, some employers try to argue that the above circumstances occurred when in fact they did not. Some employers make this argument in order to avoid the legal responsibility to pay your medical expenses and a portion of your wages while you recovery from your injury.
When would an Injured Employee be Disqualified for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Although you can still get workers’ comp benefits if you caused your own injury in most cases, there are some exceptions to this rule:
- Intentional Injuries: Workers’ compensation insurers are not required to cover injuries that happen because a worker is intentionally trying to cause harm to himself/herself.
- Fighting and Horseplay: Insurers also do not have to cover workplace injuries that occur as a result of physical altercations between coworkers or other individuals, or from fooling around or showing off, commonly known as “horseplay”.
- Intoxication: Some federal courts have held that workplace injuries that happen because of alcohol or drug use do not have to be covered by workers’ comp insurers.
Although these types of disqualifying incidents are not very common, there are times when workers’ compensation insurers might wrongfully claim one of these exceptions in order to deny benefits. The goal of an insurance company is always to pay as little compensation as possible (and ideally for them no compensation at all), and toward that end, they have been known at times to deny legitimate workers’ comp claims in hopes that the employee will give up on pursuing the benefits that they deserve.
If this has happened to you, do not assume that you are out of options. Our attorneys have extensive experience helping injured workers recover the compensation that they are due. Contact our office for a free consultation and case review to find out how we can help.
Common Mistakes Claimants Make after a Workplace Injury
Failure to Report the Injury in a Timely Manner
As soon someone suffers a workplace injury or an illness that appears to be work-related, they should report this to their employer. For example, if the injury happens because of a workplace accident, don’t hold off on reporting it because you think you might feel better the next day.
In general, Alabama requires workers who get injured or have a potential occupational illness to report this to their employer within five days. And if you fail to give notice within the required timeframe, you risk losing workers’ compensation benefits. The best rule of thumb is to always report injuries to your employer as soon as you become aware of them.
Failure to Provide Sufficient Documentation of the Injury
This is closely related to the first mistake. In order to get workers’ compensation benefits, you need to provide sufficient proof that the injury is work-related. This means reporting the workplace accident or incident in as much detail as possible, and the testimony of witnesses is very helpful as well.
If you do not report the injury to your employer right away, then you will probably not remember the details as well as you would if you reported the injury on the day it happened. The same holds true for the recollections of witnesses who might have seen how you got injured.
Failure to Get Immediate Medical Attention
If you suffer a workplace injury, you should get in to see a doctor as soon as possible. Waiting too long can make the injury worse, and it can make it more likely that your claim will be denied. Get prompt medical help and give your doctor a full description of the extent of your injuries. If you fail to report everything to your doctor and bring up additional injuries later, there is a chance that they will not be covered by your workers’ comp claim.
Failure to Follow Doctor’s Orders
Not strictly following your doctor’s orders could seriously jeopardize your workplace injury claim. If the workers’ comp insurance carrier finds out that you are participating in restricted activities, this might be used as a basis to deny your claim. Along the same lines, do not go back to work until you have clearance from your doctor, no matter how much you want to or how much pressure your employer is putting on you. Returning to work too soon could re-aggravate your injury and complicate your claim even further.
Failure to Obtain Skilled Legal Representation
As we talked about earlier, the workers’ compensation claims process is complex and confusing, and there are a lot of potential pitfalls that might trip up an injured worker if they go it alone. Retaining the services of an experienced workplace injury lawyer is a very wise move, because it helps to ensure a smoother claims process, and it helps ensure that you are receiving the level of benefits you are entitled to.
Contact our Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in Birmingham
If you have suffered a work injury or an accident at work and want to seek compensation for your lost wages or you need representation because you have been denied compensation benefits,
contact us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Our workers compensation attorneys are located in Birmingham, Alabama, and represent clients in Jasper, Homewood, Hoover, Greystone, and many other locations statewide.
We also handle the following cases:
Our law firm, located in Birmingham, Alabama, provides workers’ compensation, FELA and personal injury legal services throughout the Southeastern U.S., including the cities of Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Dothan, Gadsden, Mobile, Anniston and Decatur. We bring FELA claims in many states, including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio and Florida.