Mitchell Lattof | August 12, 2020 | Workers' Compensation
Workplace injuries are common. When they happen, it can be devastating for the injured employee if they are forced to take time off of work to heal. Before Alabama instituted workers’ compensation laws, employees had to sue employees for their injuries.
The Alabama laws governing the amount of weekly coverage available to those who are injured on the job are generous compared to many other states.
In Alabama, the caps on the maximum weekly benefits for temporary total disability stand at two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the maximum set by the state.
As of June 2019, that weekly maximum is $892.00 per week. These benefits are available until you reach maximum medical improvement or until you are able to return to work at full pay.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover if I am Injured While at Work?
Workers’ compensation insurance acts much like any insurance coverage for medical benefits. As we discussed above, you are entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage for the length of time it takes for a full recovery, or until you return to your regular job.
Temporary partial disability benefits are also paid when you can return to work, but due to restrictions placed by your doctor, you cannot perform your normal job. This is often referred to as a light-duty position. These benefits equate to two-thirds of the difference in your wages.
For example, if you usually earn $1,000.00 per week, but light-duty restrictions mean you are only able to earn $200 per week. Under the state’s workers’ compensation system, you would receive two-thirds of the $800.00 difference in your earnings. So, in addition to the $200 you are able to earn each week, you would also receive $533.33.
Medical Costs Associated With Your Injury
If the injury is an emergency, you should always seek emergency medical care immediately. When you do, tell the medical provider that you sustained an on the job injury. For emergency care, you can choose the health care facility from which to seek treatment.
In non-emergency cases, Alabama has set specific rules that allow your employer and its insurer that provides the workers’ compensation to control a significant part of your medical treatment for work-related illnesses and injuries. When you report your claim, your employer may select the doctor who will perform the initial evaluation of your injury.
If you are not satisfied with the doctor or facility used for your initial treatment, you must notify your employer in writing. The insurance company, by law, must provide you with a list of four other doctors that you can choose from to continue your care.
The insurance company that provides workers’ compensation benefits to your company is responsible for covering all reasonable medical care related to your injury. The definition of reasonable care includes:
- Doctor’s visits
- X-rays and other imaging studies
- Hospital stays
- Lab work
- Physical therapy
- All costs associated with surgery or other invasive treatment
- Necessary medical equipment such as crutches, slings or braces
In summary, you are entitled to treatment that meets a reasonable standard of care for your type of injury. The medical doctors who provide your care are bound by law to give you an acceptable standard of care no matter how your injury occurred or who is paying the bill.
Compensation for Mileage
There are other costs associated with obtaining the medical treatment that will be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. You should also be reimbursed for mileage you incur traveling to and from medical appointments and physical therapy.
Drug and Alcohol Screening
At the time you are involved in a workplace accident, your employer has the right to require that you submit to a blood or urine test for alcohol or drugs. Refusing to do so may cause you to lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits. (Alabama Code Title 25. Industrial Relations and Labor § 25-5-51). The employer is responsible for the costs associated with testing.
How Long Will Alabama Workers’ Comp Benefits Last?
There is no limit on how long you can receive temporary total disability payments. If it is determined that you will be unable to return to your job, or other reasonable employment, you can continue to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the maximums defined by state law.
These benefits will be paid out for the remainder of your life or can be paid in a lump sum, assuming you and the insurer agree.
Alabama workers’ compensation may be generous compared to some states, but it is not without its flaws. If your workers’ compensation has been denied or your benefits have been reduced, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you understand your options.