Alabama's system of workers' compensation is compulsory, meaning that employers are required to provide workers' compensation insurance to their employees. Workers' compensation insurance may be provided through private insurance carriers or self-insurance. Waivers may be permitted to exclude certain employees from coverage, including corporate officers and sole proprietors.
Exemptions from coverage may apply to certain employees, including employees of very small businesses, harvest help, part-time babysitters and cleaning personnel, independent contractors.
Medical Benefits are provided to employees entitled to workers' compensation benefits, with no limit on necessary medical care.
The employer makes the initial choice of treating physician. If an employee is dissatisfied with the treating physician, they have one opportunity to select a different physician from a panel of four. Requests for second opinions must be reasonable and necessary. The employer does not have to pay for a second opinion requested by an employee.
Indemnity benefits are payable to injured workers to help make up for lost income. There is a waiting period of 3 days before a worker is eligible for indemnity benefits, but if the worker's disability lasts more than 21 days indemnity benefits become retroactive to the date of the injury.
Benefits available to injured workers include the following:
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are paid to workers who are unable to work due to injury, but who are expected to make full or partial recovery such that they may return to work. Benefits are based upon 2/3 of the worker's pre-injury average weekly wage, subject to a cap, and continue for the duration of the temporary disability.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
When a worker is not expected to recover from a total disability caused by a work-related injury, and as a result suffers a total loss of earning capacity, the worker becomes eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. In Alabama PTD benefits are calculated based upon 2/3 of the injured worker's pre-injury weekly wage, subject to a cap, and may continue indefinitely. Offsets may apply for disability insurance benefits paid for by the employer.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Once an injured worker has recovered to the maximum possible extent, the worker may be able to return to employment but nonetheless remain partially disabled, and may potentially qualify for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. In Alabama PPD benefits are determined based upon a statutory schedule, actual wage loss, and an estimate of the worker's loss of wage-earning capacity. For unscheduled injuries, PPD benefits are determined based upon an assessment of functional impairment. Benefits are calculated based upon 2/3 of the injured worker's average weekly wage. Benefits for unscheduled injuries are payable for a maximum of 300 weeks,
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
When a worker suffers an injury that limits his ability to return to work, resulting in a reduction of income as a result of reduced hours or wages, the injured worker may be eligible to receive a benefit based on the difference between the worker's pre-injury earnings and their reduced, post-injury earnings. In Alabama, workers may receive temporary partial disability benefits based upon 2/3 of their pre-injury average weekly wage, subject to a cap, for up to 300 weeks.
For some, more serious injuries, workers' compensation indemnity benefits may be paid according to a statutory schedule, instead of following the standard model of the weekly benefit based on the duration of the disability. Scheduled injuries include such injuries as the amputation of an arm, the loss of a dominant hand, the loss of a leg, the loss of a foot, the loss of an eye, or loss of hearing in an ear.
Coverage may be available for cumulative trauma, disfigurement and occupational hearing loss.
When a worker dies as the result of a work-related injury, workers' compensation pays additional benefits, including a burial allowance, and benefits for a surviving spouse and dependents. Survivor benefits are calculated based on 2/3 of the worker's average weekly wage, subject to limits both in amount and duration.
If a deceased worker has no dependents, an additional amount is paid to the estate.
Attorney fees are limited to fifteen percent of the workers' compensation award.
This article provides a quick overview of the benefits available to injured workers, but the full formulas used for assessment of benefits, coordination of different types of benefits, and assessment of injuries and disability ratings can quickly complicate the determination of benefits. Also, states frequently revise their workers' compensation laws. Most workers who suffer a significant injury or wage loss as the result of a workplace injury will benefit from consulting a workers' compensation lawyer.
The state agency responsible for workers' compensation is:
Alabama Department of Labor
Workers' Compensation Division
649 Monroe Street
Montgomery, AL 36131
(334) 242-2868 or 1-800-528-5166