When you are injured on the job, in most cases you will turn to your company’s Workers’ Compensation carrier to cover your medical bills, lost earnings, and rehabilitation. Workers’ Comp allows you to get these benefits without the necessity of a law suit, and at the same time protects the employer from having to be involved in litigation with employees. The advantage is that it is a no-fault system, so all you have to show to qualify for benefits is that you are suffering a job-related injury or disease.
Nevertheless, Workers’ Compensation has its limitations, most notably that it does not compensate you for your pain and suffering, and that punitive damages are not possible, regardless of how blatantly egregious your employer’s behavior may be. Bluntly stated, your employer is normally only liable for paying the related medical treatment and two-thirds of your weekly wage during the period you are unable to work.
If you’ve suffered an injury on the job, an Alabama Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help prepare your paperwork properly and guide you through the Workers’ Compensation system to ensure that you get the maximum benefit you’re entitled to and overcome any obstacles you may encounter along the way. Sometimes it may be difficult to prove that your injury is job-related, especially if it is not the result of a single incident but is a cumulative injury that has developed over the course of your years on the job. A good attorney can also be especially helpful in getting you the vocational rehabilitation services you need for an occupation that suits your interests when your disabilities keep you from returning to your regular job, or if your doctor wants to try a cutting-edge procedure that the insurance company is trying to deny as “non-standard.”
Third Party Claims
Workers’ Compensation allows you to receive benefits without having to file a lawsuit or prove negligence, but it does not allow for compensation for damages to your quality of life, such as pain, suffering, and inability to enjoy hobbies, sports, and other activities that make life enjoyable. These types of losses may be even more difficult for you to deal with than the financial ones.
In some cases where you’ve been injured on the job, a party other than your employer may have caused your injury in full or in part, for example if you were injured using a tool with a defect that caused your accident. If so, your lawyer may be able to assist you in filing a third-party claim against that party, in the case of the defective tool, the manufacturer. This could make it possible for you to claim compensation for your non-economic damages, and in extreme cases, you might be awarded punitive damages as well. Your attorney will examine the details of the accident carefully to determine if you may have a third-party claim.
When You’ve Been Injured on the Job
To preserve your right to a Workers’ Compensation claim, if you are hurt on the job, you must report it to your employer. Your employer will give you the name of a doctor; you should make an appointment immediately, and make certain the doctor knows that the injury occurred at work. You will have to complete some rather complicated paperwork (your lawyer can help with this), and you will need provide a copy of your medical records or an authorization for them to document your claim. Don’t be surprised if there are delays or denials. As with any kind of insurance, the carrier makes money by taking in as much as possible in premiums while paying out as little as possible in claims. A good Workers’ Comp lawyer can facilitate the process and help you overcome any obstacles the insurance company or your employer may try to throw in your path.
The Available Benefits
Depending on your injury or illness, you may potentially qualify for these categories of benefits:
If you’ve lost a significant amount of time at work as a result of your injury or illness, you may be able to receive disability benefits to cover lost earnings, typically at 2/3 of your normal pay. The insurance carrier will examine your disability claim and make one of these four possible determinations:
- Temporary partial disability
- Permanent partial disability
- Temporary total disability
- Permanent total disability
When necessary, Workers’ Compensation covers physical and/or occupational therapy. In the event your disability makes it impossible for you to return to your regular job, they must provide vocational rehabilitation to train you for a different kind of occupation that you can do with your injury-related limitations. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to determine what kind of work this should be. It may be necessary to involve your attorney to you get you training for a job you want.
Death benefit for survivors
The spouse and minor children of a worker killed on the job are entitled to a death benefit based on the deceased person’s wages at the time of death, as well as funeral expenses.
If you are injured on the job and covered by Alabama’s Workman’s Compensation Act, your employer or their insurance carrier must pay all accident related medical expenses for the rest of your life. This is frequently called “open-meds”.
Lump Sum Settlement
If you have sustained a permanent injury, regardless of whether your return to work, the employer and/or worker’s comp insurance carrier is responsible for a lump sum paid at the end of your medical treatment. This “lump sum” can vary dramatically depending on what your primary physician says you can do or no longer do. At Drake Law Firm, we can hire experts to testify to these issues and this can usually increase the benefits paid as a lump sum.
Legal Representation for Workers’ Compensation and Third Party Claims
Some potential clients ask whether they need legal representation for a work injury. If you have a small injury that does not prevent you from returning to your normal duties, then you may very well not need an attorney. If, however, your injury has a permanent element and you will be unable to resume your regular tasks, it is a mistake to negotiate a settlement without an experienced lawyer by your side.
Additionally, a lawyer can assist in determining if you have a claim other than just against your employer. Alabama law allows suits against any one who caused or contributed to you injury. Unlike a simple workers comp claim, suits against other companies or people can include many of the things work comp doesn’t allow such as: mental anguish, future lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages, etc.
In Alabama, to make certain that your claim is filed properly so you receive the benefits you’re entitled to from Workers’ Compensation, call the Drake Law Firm in Birmingham and schedule a free consultation today. Our highly-skilled attorneys have many years of experience in helping the injured get the compensation they need and deserve. We will help you file the claim properly and look closely at your situation to determine if there is potential for making one or more third-party claims to improve the possibility of a full recovery for all your damages, including the non-financial ones. Don’t delay, because missing a legal deadline could cause you to lose your right to benefits.