Alaska'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 apply to certain employees, including harvest help, part-time babysitters and cleaning personnel, independent contractors, and some professional athletes.
Medical Benefits are provided to employees entitled to workers' compensation benefits, with limits on chiropractic care, physical therapy, palliative care, and occupational therapy.
The initial choice of physician is made by the employee. One change of physician is permitted, with any subsequent change of physician being subject to the approval of the employer or insurance company. An employer may obtain one second opinion, with any subsequent request for a second opinion being subject to the approval of the 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 28 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 80% of the injured worker's after-tax pay, subject to a cap, and continue until the worker is medically stable or returns to work. Benefits may be subject to offset based upon such factors as the employee's receipt of Social Security or retirement benefits.
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 Alaska PTD benefits are calculated based upon 80% of the worker's after-tax net weekly wages, subject to a cap, and may continue for the duration of the disability. Offsets may apply for Social Security benefits and for certain retirement benefits.
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. Injured workers in Alaska may be eligible for scheduled permanent partial impairment benefits, involving a lump sum payment based upon the injured worker's whole person impairment rating.
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. An Alaskaworker may receive a TPD benefit of 80% of the difference between the worker's pre-injury spendable weekly wage and the worker's wage earning capacity after injury, subject to a cap.
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, mental stress 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, a lump sum death benefit, and benefits for a surviving spouse and dependents. Survivor benefits are calculated based on 90% of the worker's spendable wages, subject to limits both in amount and duration.
Attorney fees are paid by the employer or workers' compensation insurer, and must be approved by the state workers' compensation board.
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:
Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development
Division of Workers' Compensation
1111 West 8th Street, Room 307
P. O. Box 115512
Juneau, AK 99811-5512
(907) 465-2790 or 1-877-783-4980