Workers' compensation, a type of insurance that provides benefits to individuals injured or ill due to their employment, plays a crucial role in safeguarding Alabama's workforce. Though its incidence rate of occupational injuries and illnesses is low compared to the national average, the state actually recorded 32,600 non-fatal cases in 2021.
With that in mind, this article delves into the intricacies of workers' compensation in Alabama, empowering employees to comprehend their rights and responsibilities. It discusses eligibility requirements, benefits available to claimants, and more. As such, if you're an injured or sick employee struggling to navigate the complexities of the law, this comprehensive guide will serve as a valuable tool.
Alabama Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, businesses with more than four employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This policy covers both full-time and part-time employees, officers of a corporation, and members of an LLC with a minimum payroll of $52,000 and a maximum payroll of $213,200.
Did you know that in Alabama, independent contractors aren’t entitled to worker's compensation benefits? This means that if an independent contractor sustains an injury or develops an occupational disease while performing their duties, they’re not eligible for the same level of financial and medical assistance that traditional employees receive.
Other categories of employees are also exempt from the requirement for worker's compensation coverage. These include domestic workers, whose primary tasks involve household upkeep and personal care services; farm laborers, who engage in agricultural activities; and casual employees, who are hired for sporadic or short-term assignments without a predetermined number of work hours.
The exclusion of these groups from worker's compensation coverage stems from the distinction between employees and independent contractors. Employees are individuals who work under the direction and control of another entity, while independent contractors possess greater autonomy and flexibility in their work arrangements.
Requirements for Businesses in the Construction Industry
In the construction industry, the inherent hazards of the job mandate that businesses with at least one employee secure workers' compensation coverage. The physically demanding nature of construction tasks, coupled with the frequent use of heavy machinery and hazardous materials, elevates the risk of workplace injuries for construction workers.
Falls, slips, trips, and strikes by objects are among the most common causes of work-related injuries in the industry, often resulting in fractures, sprains, and strains. As such, workers' compensation insurance serves as a critical safety net for construction employees, ensuring their well-being and safeguarding their employers from legal liability.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Providers for Alabama Businesses
Alabama businesses can get workers’ compensation insurance from commercial carriers or join the Alabama Self-Insured Workers’ Compensation Fund. In most cases, workers’ compensation plans do not include employers’ liability insurance and must be bought separately.
Business Coverage Requirements in Municipalities with Populations Under 2,000
Businesses within municipalities of fewer than 2,000 people aren’t required to provide workers’ compensation coverage. However, they can buy insurance from commercial carriers or self-insure by obtaining a certificate of authority to self-insure from the Alabama Department of Labor.
Sanctions for Companies that Violate the Alabama Workers’ Comp Laws
Alabama law states that employers must secure workers' compensation insurance to protect their employees from financial hardship in the event of an occupational injury or illness. Failure to comply can result in significant penalties, including:
Daily fines of up to $1,000 per uninsured employee: Employers who neglect to obtain workers' compensation insurance face hefty daily fines for each employee left unprotected. These fines can accumulate rapidly, putting a substantial financial strain on non-compliant businesses.
Stop-work orders: In severe cases of non-compliance, the Alabama Department of Labor may issue stop-work orders, halting business operations until the employer secures workers' compensation insurance. This disruption can significantly impact the company's productivity and profitability.
Doubled compensation for injured employees: If an employee sustains a work-related injury or illness and the employer lacks workers' compensation coverage, the injured worker can file a claim against the employer. The employee may be entitled to twice the amount of workers' compensation benefits they would have received had the employer complied with the law.
Overall, these consequences serve as a significant deterrent to employers who may be tempted to disregard their legal obligations.
Alabama Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Alabama workers who suffer injuries or develop illnesses due to their work may be entitled to benefits. The amount of compensation depends on the nature and severity of the injury, whether the worker can return to their job, and whether their income remains the same.
The benefits that an injured employee may claim under Alabama’s worker’s compensation laws are listed below:
Medical Care Benefits
Employers are responsible for covering the medical costs of all the authorized treatments necessary for work-related injuries and diseases. They can elect a medical provider to treat the employee; if the injured employee refuses to undergo any medical procedure the employer elects, the right to compensation will be suspended.
Travel Cost Benefits
Workers' compensation insurance may extend to transportation costs, including mileage reimbursement for traveling to and from medical appointments and vocational rehabilitation services. Additionally, if these appointments require overnight stays, workers' compensation covers meals and lodging expenses.
Temporary Partial Disability Benefits
In the event that an employee sustains a workplace injury that results in a partial disability and their original income is consequently impacted, the insurance company will provide compensation for two-thirds of the lost wages every week. However, this benefit is subject to a state-imposed limitation, restricting the total duration of weekly payments to a maximum of 300 weeks.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits
Employees who are unable to work due to an occupational injury or illness may be eligible for temporary total disability benefits. These provide two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $920 per week.
The amount is based on the employee's earnings in the year before the injury or illness occurred. If the employee's pre-injury earnings were less than $253 per week, they will receive the full amount of their pre-injury earnings. Employees will continue to receive benefits until they are able to return to work.
In the unfortunate event that an employee passes away due to a work-related injury, the employer is responsible for covering up to $6,500 of the deceased’s funeral expenses. This obligation remains in effect regardless of whether the employee had private burial insurance. The employer's liability for funeral expenses is intended to alleviate the financial burden faced by the employee's family during this difficult time.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Alabama
An employee who gets injured or develops an occupational disease in the workplace must provide a written notice to the employer within five days of the onset of the injury or illness and request workers’ compensation benefits.
The employer must then file a First Report of Injury form, or WCC Form 2, within 15 days from the date of injury or illness. It can be filed online or by phone, mail, or fax.
When Is the Deadline for Workers’ Compensation Claims in Alabama?
In Alabama, an injured employee must notify their employer within five days from the date of the incident. For temporary total and partial disability, there is a waiting period of three days. This means that no compensation shall be disbursed within the first three days after the incident, and the disbursement of compensation will begin on the fourth day following the injury.
If the affected employee will not be able to work for up to 21 days, the benefits that they are supposed to get within the first three days will be added to the first payment, which will be made available after 21 days.
Step-By-Step Guide on Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Alabama
If an employee gets injured in the workplace in Alabama, they will need to file a workers’ compensation claim to get compensated for all the damages suffered as a result of the incident. Filing a workers’ compensation claim for injuries and work-related illnesses follows a process. The affected employee must follow certain steps to get compensated. The steps are outlined below:
1. Seek Medical Attention
After an injury, the employee must immediately seek medical attention to get the necessary treatment and medication. Employers typically maintain a list of approved medical institutions or providers that can attend to the medical needs of their injured employees.
Employees must receive medical care only from healthcare providers authorized by the company’s insurance carrier to ensure their eligibility for compensation. If an employee is not satisfied with the first treatment and requires further medical attention, they can inform the employer and seek additional treatment from another physician on the approved list.
It is vital to keep a copy of all the documents and records involved in a claim. These include medical records, prescriptions, photos of the scene, and other evidence. Keeping them in one folder will make it easy to access whenever the need to present them arises.
Having the contact information of eyewitnesses to the incident is also essential. Additionally, if they are willing to provide a statement regarding the incident, getting a copy of their account is a good course of action.
2. Notify the Employer
Under Alabama law, an employee who gets injured in the workplace must provide a written notice to the employer within five days of the occurrence of the injury. This notification process is an essential step in the application for workers’ compensation benefits. Doing it promptly increases the injured employee’s chances of having a successful claim.
3. File a Claim Form
After receiving a notification of injury from the injured employee, the employer must file the First Report of Injury Form. This form includes essential information about the employee's wages, a description of the injury, how it happened, the severity of the injury, and the medical procedure the injured employee received.
If the employer refuses to fill out and file the form, the employee may need to retain an attorney or report the employer to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Ombudsman Program at 334-956-4046 or 1-800-528-5166. Afterward, an examiner will assess the circumstances of the claim.
The Ombudsman Program was founded to assist claimants, employers, and other individuals in asserting their rights under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. With the agreement of both parties, the ombudsman will hold a benefit review conference to discuss the rights of the respective parties, as well as the facts of the claim.
A workers’ compensation attorney may be able to work out a settlement with the employer if they deny liability. If negotiations fail, the employee and the attorney can pursue the claim in court.
4. Wait for Feedback from the Insurance Company
Once the company’s elected insurance company receives notification of injury from the employer, an investigation of the claim will commence.
While the investigation is ongoing, the insurance company’s investigator may contact both the employee and the employer. They might also check the injured employee’s social media accounts as part of the inquiry. The employee must refrain from posting anything on social media that could adversely affect the approval of the claim.
Once the investigation is complete, the claim will either be approved or denied. The outcome of this assessment will determine whether the employee will receive the compensation they are entitled to under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Law.
What Should One Do if a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Alabama Has Been Denied?
There are several reasons for claim denial, including the following:
The injury or illness did not occur when the employee was carrying out duties in the workplace.
The claim was for an injury or illness that was caused by intoxication, impairment, or violation of the company’s policies.
The injured or sick employee failed to provide written notice to the employer within the allowed timeframe.
The employee did not get treatment for their condition or failed to adhere to the healthcare provider’s treatment recommendations.
The employee had a pre-existing condition that could have a link to the current condition.
Following the denial of a claim, the employee may file a written appeal with the Hearings and Appeals Division of the Alabama Department of Labor within 15 days from the date they received the denial notice via mail.
Legal Resources for Injured Workers in Alabama
Ultimately, if you have a work-related injury or condition in Alabama, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. The resources below can provide more information about your rights, help you file your claim, and represent you in hearings and appeals.
The Alabama Department of Labor - Workers’ Compensation Division
The Alabama Workers' Compensation Division is a resource for those seeking information about workers' compensation benefits and claims. The division's website provides a comprehensive guide to the state’s relevant laws, including details on insurance requirements and frequently asked questions. Employers can also find legal forms and other resources on the website.
The WCD is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Contact it at 334-956-4044 or 1-800-528-5166 for more information.
Made in Alabama
Made in Alabama is the official website of the Alabama Department of Commerce. It provides access to the Alabama Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation Manual, which offers crucial information about workers' compensation in the state, including eligibility requirements, insurance options for employers, available benefits, and the various types of compensatory benefits.
Alabama State Bar
The Alabama State Bar is the official organization of lawyers across the state. The workers’ compensation section of the Alabama State Bar established a scholarship grant called Kids’ Chance. The latter provides financial support to children whose parents have suffered permanent disabilities or even death while at work. The Alabama State Bar may be reached at 334-269-1515.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama School of Law offers a course entitled "Workers' Compensation - LAW 697." This course provides an in-depth examination of workers' compensation law, focusing on how cases are handled from the perspective of both the plaintiff and the defense.
The course also explores the legal definitions of key terms such as "injury by accident" and "arising out of and in the course of employment" and how these definitions can affect the validity of workers' compensation claims.
Step into the world of Expertise.com, your go-to hub for credible insights. We don't take accuracy lightly around here. Our squad of expert reviewers, each a maestro in their field, has given the green light to every single article you'll find. From rigorous fact-checking to meticulous evaluations of service providers, we've got it all covered. So feel free to dive in and explore. The information you'll uncover has been stamped with the seal of approval by our top-notch experts.