Injured on the job? We can help!
Tuscaloosa's Workers' Compensation Attorneys
An on-the-job injury can have a lasting impact on many aspects of an injured worker’s life. These issues are real and personal to the injured worker, but just business in the eyes of the workers’ compensation insurance company. Workers’ compensation is a very specialized area of the law and most injured workers do not have any knowledge of their rights under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Steve Ford and Kee Spree have over 50 years of combined experience handling all types of workers’ compensation claims and have successfully resolved well in excess of 3,000 workers’ compensation cases across Alabama. If you had an on-the-job injury, call us at (205) 349-2000 for a free consultation.
Have you been injured on the job?
We wrote the book...
It was a great privilege for Steve Ford to co-author the First Edition and the Second Edition of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Law and Handbook. The purpose and underlying motivation for this book was to offer a lawyer, judge, or student a balanced work that brought together substantive workers’ compensation law and practical hands-on advice on how to handle a workers’ compensation case. Steve Ford and Kee Spree author a supplement each year to update the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Law and Handbook with new case law and developments in workers’ compensation.
Frequently Asked Questions for Workers’ Compensation Claims. Learn more by clicking on the + below.
What is workers' compensation?
The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits to workers who are injured while on the job. Injured workers receive benefits in a workers’ compensation case. The three benefits available under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act are medical benefits, compensation benefits, and vocational rehabilitation benefits. Medical benefits are lifetime benefits as long as two conditions are met. First, the medical care must be provided by an authorized doctor. Second, the medical care must be related to the on-the-job injury. Compensation benefits are based solely on impairment or disability, and are generally available in the form of temporary benefits and permanent benefits. Vocational rehabilitation benefits are available when an injured worker is not able to return to his or her job and is a proper candidate for retraining/rehabilitation.
What type of injuries are covered under workers’ compensation?
Traumatic injuries such as falling off a ladder, loss of body part(s), lifting, pulling or pushing heavy objects, slipping or tripping on stairs, floors or walkways, being hit by an object, suffering severe burns, sustaining an injury while operating machinery, etc. are covered under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Any type of injury or death that occurs while an employee is on the job may be covered under workers’ compensation. Occupational exposure cases are also covered where an employee is injured because of exposure to toxic and hazardous substances such as chemicals, gases, vapors, fumes, dust and mists while on the job. A cumulative trauma injury, such as carpel tunnel syndrome or hearing loss, is covered under workers’ compensation. Psychological injuries are also compensable under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act if the psychological injury is a result of a physical injury.
How do I make a workers’ compensation claim?
If you are injured on the job, one of the first things to do is to give your employer notice that you have been hurt in a work-related accident. It needs to be more than just you have been hurt. You need to inform your employer that you have been hurt on the job and want to make a workers’ compensation claim. Notice to an employer of a work-related injury may either be oral or written, but it is preferable to submit a written report of injury to the employer. If you do not get a timely response, then you should seek an attorney to assist you in your workers’ compensation claim because any unreasonable delay may undermine your claim.
What is the statute of limitations for a workers’ compensation claim?
Two (2) years from the date of injury or two (2) years from the date of the last compensation payment. In an occupational disease case, the limitations period begins to run at the date of last injurious exposure.
Do I have to tell my employer that I was injured at work?
Yes, unless the employer has actual notice of the injury. You should notify your employer as soon as possible that you have been hurt on the job and request medical care from a workers’ compensation doctor. Notice is generally sufficient if an injured worker notifies a supervisor, manager, foreman, or other agent of the employer of the work-related injury.
In a workers’ compensation case does it matter who is at fault?
No. A recovery in a workers’ compensation case is not based on fault. The question is whether the employee was injured on the job and not who was at fault in causing the injury. It is a no-fault injury as workers’ compensation benefits are based strictly on whether an employee was hurt on the job.
What type of recovery do I receive in a workers’ compensation case?
In a workers’ compensation case, you recover only workers’ compensation benefits as opposed to damages such as pain, suffering, mental anguish, punitive damages, etc. in an auto accident case. For example, in an on-the-job injury covered under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, the benefits are:
- Medical benefits – medical care as long as you are being treated by an authorized workers’ compensation doctor and the doctor relates the care to your on-the-job injury.
- Compensation benefits – based on your percent of impairment or disability.
- Vocational benefits – vocational retraining or rehabilitation in an attempt to return to work.
Can my employer fire me for making a workers’ compensation claim?
No. If an employer terminates an employee solely in retaliation for bringing or maintaining a workers’ compensation case, that gives rise to a separate cause of action called retaliatory discharge which results in general damages.
How long does an employee need to be working for their employer to be covered under workers’ compensation?
There is no time limit as to how long an employee must work before being covered by workers’ compensation. If the on-the-job injury occurs on the first day of employment, the worker is covered under workers’ compensation and eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
If I get hurt on the job, can I go to any doctor I want?
Not necessarily. If the employer or the workers’ compensation carrier accepts the case under workers’ compensation, then they provide an authorized treating physician to the injured employee. If the injured employee is treated by the authorized physician, then workers’ compensation has the obligation to pay for the medical care. If the employee seeks their own doctor who is not authorized by workers’ compensation, then the employee must pay for the medical care. On the other hand, if the workers’ compensation case is denied, then the injured employee may select his or her own doctor for medical treatment, but the injured employee must pay for the medical treatment. In the event the case is later determined to be a covered workers’ compensation case, that doctor may become the actual authorized treating physician.
Who is responsible for paying my medical bills?
Upon accepting a workers’ compensation claim, the employer is responsible for paying for medical treatment that is reasonable and necessary, related to the work injury, and from doctors approved by the workers’ compensation carrier.
Do I receive mileage reimbursement for traveling to my doctor appointments?
Yes. Alabama Code Section 25-5-77(f) provides that “the employer shall pay mileage costs to and from medical and rehabilitation providers at the same rate as provided by law for official state travel.”
What is a panel of four doctors?
An injured worker may change his or her authorized treating physician or surgeon only once through a panel of four. If the injured worker is dissatisfied with the initial treating physician selected by the employer and if further medical treatment is required, the injured worker may so advise the employer and the injured worker shall be entitled to select a second physician from a panel or list of four physicians selected by the employer. An employee is only entitled to one panel of physicians unless surgery is required. If surgery is required and if the employee is dissatisfied with the designated surgeon, he or she may notify the employer and be entitled to select a second surgeon from a panel or list of four surgeons selected by the employer.
What does maximum medical improvement (“MMI”) mean in workers’ compensation?
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals defined maximum medical improvement as “the date on which the claimant has reached such a plateau that there is no further medical care or treatment that could be reasonably anticipated to lessen the claimant’s disability.” G.UB.MK. Constructors v. Traffanstedt, 726 So. 2d 704, 709 (Ala. Civ. App. 1998). In other words, the injured worker is as good as he or she is going to get from medical treatment in the doctor’s opinion. In most workers’ compensation cases, the treating physicians assign the date of maximum medical improvement (MMI).
What is an impairment rating?
An impairment rating refers to the permanent physical impairment caused by the on-the-job injury. The authorized treating physician will generally give an impairment rating after the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI). However, a judge is not bound to accept a doctor’s assigned impairment rating and is free to make his or her own determination as to an employee’s impairment.
What are scheduled injuries and unscheduled injuries?
Scheduled injuries include on-the-job injuries to certain body parts such as an eye, arm, leg, hand, foot, finger, thumb, and toe. Unscheduled injuries typically involve injuries to the body as a whole such as head injuries, neck injuries, shoulder injuries, spinal injuries, back injuries, and hip injuries.
If I get injured on the job, do I have any other claim other than workers’ compensation?
Possibly. For example, if you are on the job driving a vehicle and have an auto accident that was not your fault, you now have two potential claims: a workers’ compensation claim and a negligence claim against the other driver. Another potential scenario may include an employee getting injured due to a defective product, which would give rise to a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party claim against the manufacturer of the product. A possible additional type of third-party claim may be based on the willful conduct of a co-employee that willfully causes an injury to the employee. Careful examination of the facts and circumstances of the injury is necessary to determine what causes of action may be present.
How long will I receive workers’ compensation benefits?
An injured worker may be entitled to compensation for temporary disability during the time of recovery from his or her injury. The most common form of compensation is temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, and there is no maximum number of weeks for which TTD benefits may be paid. Temporary disability refers to the time between the date the employee is injured and the date the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI). An injured worker is no longer entitled to temporary total disability benefits once he or she is placed at maximum medical improvement.
If a worker has permanent injuries, but is not permanently and totally disabled, the worker is entitled to receive permanent partial disability benefits. The amount and duration of permanent partial disability benefits depend upon whether the injury is a scheduled injury or an unscheduled injury. If an employee suffers an injury to a listed body part found in the schedule of injuries in Alabama Code Section 25-5-57(a)(3)a, and if the effects of the injury are limited solely to that body part, and if the injury is not accompanied by disabling pain, then the injured worker will be limited to the number of weeks set forth in the schedule of injuries. For an unscheduled injury, permanent partial disability benefits are limited to 300 weeks with credit given to the employer for the number of weeks of temporary total disability paid.
An injured worker found to be permanently and totally disabled is entitled to permanent total disability benefits until the disability ceases or his or her death. In death cases, compensation may be paid to dependents during dependency up to a maximum of 500 weeks.
How much will I be paid while I am off work under workers’ compensation?
The payment for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits should be 66 2/3% of the employee’s average weekly wage, subject to a maximum and minimum rate that is determined by the Alabama Department of Labor.
Why was my workers’ compensation claim denied?
There are numerous reasons why an employer and/or its workers’ compensation carrier may have denied a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. A few common reasons include:
- The injured worker caused the accident. However, fault or liability is not an issue in a workers’ comp claim. A worker hurt on the job is entitled to recover benefits, in most cases, even if it is his or her own fault.
- The employee failed to immediately give written notice to the employer on the day of the injury or accident. However, in general, an employee has five (5) days to notify the employer of an injury or accident either orally or in writing. If the employee has a good reason for failure to notify his or her employer within five (5) days, but does provide actual notice within ninety (90) days, then the employee is entitled to benefits. An employee is not required to give notice to the employer about an occupational disease.
- The injured worker had a preexisting condition. However, if the employee was able to perform his or her duties prior to the injury, then no preexisting condition is present to disqualify the employee’s claim. It is not necessary that the on-the-job accident was the sole cause of the injuries, or even that it was the dominant cause. It is necessary, however, that the on-the-job accident was in fact a contributing cause of the injury.
- There were no witnesses to the accident. However, the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act does not require any witnesses to a work-related accident in order for an employee to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
- The employee was injured due to his or her own willful misconduct. However, the employer still remains liable for medical benefits. Compensation benefits may be denied for employees whose injuries occurred due to their own willful misconduct, intoxication, or willful breach of a safety rule or regulation of the employer. The employer has the burden of proving that the employee engaged in willful misconduct that was the proximate cause of the employee’s injury.
Will a preexisting condition prevent me from receiving workers’ compensation?
Alabama law is clear that if an injured worker was performing his or her normal job in a normal fashion at the time of the injury, then there is no preexisting injury for purposes of workers’ compensation. If a new injury combines with a preexisting injury to produce disability, or if a preexisting condition was asymptomatic and an on-the-job injury causes the condition to become symptomatic, then the preexisting condition is of no consequences.
Do I really need an attorney to help me in a workers’ compensation claim?
Yes. Workers’ compensation is a very specialized area of the law and the average person is not familiar with the provisions of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Workers’ compensation adjusters deal with workers’ compensation every day. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney levels the playing field for an injured worker and helps the employee understand his or her rights pursuant to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Therefore, it is almost always beneficial for an injured employee to be represented by an attorney.