Legal Guide

Suffer A Workplace Accident In Alabama? Read This To Know What Are Your Options

Under the Alabama Workers Compensation Law, you are entitled to two basic benefits if you meet with a workplace accident. The first is the payment of two-thirds of the average weekly wage for the duration you are unable to work. The second is the payment of all work-injury related medical bills. There are provisions under the Alabama workers’ compensation law to provide for a lump sum in case any employee is unable to get back to work.

This settlement amount shall be based on your vocational limitations or medical impairment rating. In addition, you have the right to sue a third-party who is not your employer if they were the cause for your injury. The compensation so recovered should not be allowed by basic workman compensation law.

All of the above rights are explained in detail here.

Payment of Medical Bills

The employer or their workers’ compensation insurance carrier is required to pay for all medical bills related to the accident injury. Under the Alabama law, employers are allowed to choose the physician and facility since they are required to pick up the tab.

The result is that most employers pick conservative doctors that shy away from expensive surgeries and diagnostic studies. The goal of insurance carriers is to get an employee back on their feet as soon as possible with a minimum tab. Less downtime equates to minimal medical treatment, which ensures that their job injury insurance premiums are kept down.

There is no statute of limitations in Alabama for the payment of workplace injury medical bills. Employers are required to pay all reasonable medical bills regarding the workplace injury even if no lawsuit is filed. This employer’s obligation lasts for the entire life of the employee until the treating physician says the injury is healed.

Besides very few exceptions, the employer is responsible for paying bills of “authorized” physicians only as chosen by them. If the employee is not satisfied with the doctor chosen by the employer, they get to take their pick from a panel of four alternate doctors. These are picked by the insurance provider.

Payment of Average Weekly Wages

Your employer is required to pay two-thirds of your average weekly wage (AWW) under the Alabama workers’ compensation law. AWW is supposed to be paid for the duration of your workplace-related injury and till a time you are fit to return to work.

AWW is calculated by adding the gross income of an employee over the past 12 months divided by 52. Average weekly wages are considered under the Alabama legislature to prevent an employee from trying to capitalize on their injuries by not returning to work. Full wages may act as a disincentive to return to work.

Lump-Sum Payments

All benefits cease under Alabama workers’ compensation law when an employee is deemed fit to return to work without any limitations or restrictions. However, in case the employee is unable to return to their previous job responsibilities because of the injury, the workers’ compensation law provides for ‘scheduled’ or ‘unscheduled’ lump-sum payments.

Certain specific injuries are scheduled under the Alabama workers’ comp law. For instance, injuries to certain areas on the body are provided with a specific dollar amount in compensation. Among the more noteworthy examples are finger amputations and arm amputations. It is safe to say that in this regard, Alabama law provides for meager amounts as opposed to other states’ workers’ compensation law.

Unscheduled injury claims are paid when the injury cannot be assigned to any specific limb. This includes brain trauma and hip and back injuries among others. Such injuries are not awarded any specific compensation amount. Compensation awards are higher for injuries that are unscheduled and prevent the employee from returning to work.

Usually, employers tend to forego the lump sum amount for catastrophic and expensive injuries, such as quadriplegia and severe brain damage. They will instead continue paying the two-thirds of average weekly wages to the injury claimant for the rest of their lives.

Third-Party Liability and Claims

Workers’ compensation is the only claimable benefit in Alabama for the vast majority of employees that get injured on-the-job. Employers can only be sued for workers’ compensation benefits following a workplace-related injury as ruled expressly by the Supreme Court of Alabama.

However, in certain cases employees may make a claim against any third party that is other than the employer. This claim can only be brought so long as the third-party’s negligence directly caused or contributed to the accident.

An example:

You are asked by your supervisor to use the company vehicle and run an errand. While you are crossing an intersection, you get T-boned by another truck. You are still on company time. In such a scenario, you can bring both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury claims.

The personal injury claim shall be made against the truck driver and company. Third-party claims may include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of earning capacity. They may include all things that are not covered by the workers’ compensation suit, including punitive damages.

Wrongful Termination after On-the-job Injury

Many employers tend to retaliate against those seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Under Alabama law, employers are not allowed to fire or terminate their employees for filing workers’ compensation claims.

For the most part, injured workers can expect to return to work after finishing their medical treatment. Employers are aware of this ban on retaliation. They know they can be sued for punitive damages and lost wages.

Workers’ Compensation Claim Settlement

Under Alabama law, workers’ settlement with their employers needs to be court-approved. Most judges approve proposed settlement amounts if it provides for the right to future medical treatment. However, it is never a good idea to agree to settle workers’ comp without consulting with an attorney.

Benefits and rights under workers’ compensation law can be surprisingly complicated. Your lawyer can help by providing knowledgeable legal assistance. It is recommended that you obtain legal counsel as soon as you get injured to understand the process and your rights. If not, you may compromise your rights if your employer brings forth a settlement matter. 

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