Alabama Job Injury Lawyer What is Right and Wrong with Alabama’s Comp System: When we first meet with potential new Alabama workers compensation clients, we go through what the injured worker’s rights are under the Alabama Workers Compensation Statute. It is not unusual for the injured worker to exclaim that “that isn’t fair.” At this point we briefly go through the history of workers compensation laws in the United States and what was intended, but unfortunately, where we are now does not seem to be what was originally intended and in many respects is not fair.
Workers Compensation laws began as a response to unrest between labor and employers and a societally sense of “fairness.” Prior to the advent of workers compensation laws, if a worker was injured at work, there only recourse was to sue their employer under general tort law (eg., negligence, wantonness, willfulness or failure to provide a safe workplace). While actions under tort law allowed a higher for a higher amount of damages, most job injuries were not due to the actions/inaction of employers; rather, they were accidents. In a situation where the worker fell off a ladder and stepped into a hole and damaged their knee, the worker did not have any legal remedy. Workers Compensation laws were created because our society did not think it was fair that a worker who was injured while performing their job duties-and making profits for their employer-was left to face the loss of income and mounting doctor bills on their own.
State Legislatures entered into what has been called The Grand Compromise in creating systems of workers compensation benefits. The compromise asked ALL parties to give and take for the betterment of all involved. With Workers Compensation laws, the injured worker would be entitled to prompt medical treatment paid for by their employer’s workers compensation insurance carrier; they were also provided compensation while they were out of work recovering from their job injury and a capped amount of compensation should they suffer a permanent physical impairment. In return, the employers were protected from being sued under general tort law, which allowed for much higher damage awards against them, and the insurance companies made more money by selling more and more policies. The system was a good one, and worked to the benefit of most employers, insurance carriers and injured workers for years.
Unfortunately, today the Grand Compromise seems to be broken. In Alabama, the amount an injured worker is entitled to receive while off work recovering from a job injury is capped at 2/3rd of their average weekly wage. This may seem o.k., until you realize that Alabama Power, your mortgage holder and everyone else expects you to pay 100% of your bills.
Additionally, the promise to prompt medical treatment is often nothing more than a theory as in Alabama, the workers compensation insurance carriers have increasingly availed themselves to any legal loophole to delay the injured worker from obtaining the reasonably necessary medical treatment the workers compensation carrier’s selected doctor says the injured worker needs.
Moreover, the amount an injured worker can receive for a permanent scheduled injury is capped at $220 a week! That is less than our minimum wage here in Alabama.
The workers compensation system was set up so that lawyers would only be needed to help a worker who suffered a catastrophic injury and might not be able to return to their old job, or to any other type of employment; but, today in Alabama workers have to fight just to have a MRI performed. This is not hyperbole. We have filed suit for clients several times where the doctor the workers compensation insurance carrier told our client to see ordered a MRI, but the insurance carrier refused to comply with the doctor’s request. We filed suit to ensure that the worker receives the treatment the law states they are entitled to receive so they can recover and get back to work as soon as possible.
You also have to keep question whether you can I trust the comp carrier to explain what you are legally entitled to receive. There are some good workers compensation carriers, who in my opinion do a good job of ensuring the injured worker is not treated too shabbily and are fair to the injured worker; there are others who I wouldn’t trust if you paid me.
You have to remember that insurance companies are corporate entities; no, they are not “people.” People have feelings and a moral guide, companies are profit driven and owe no duty to anyone but their shareholders. Their shareholders make more money if the insurance carrier keeps more money, and the insurance companies keep more money by being less than forthcoming when it comes to the rights of injured workers in Alabama.
You are assumed to know the law; the workers compensation insurance carrier has no obligation to explain your rights to you, and rest assured, many will pull one over on you if you allow them to do so. The insurance carrier has a team of lawyers who represent them and know the law, while most injured workers have never had their legal rights explained to them.
It is true that even given the current state of Alabama workers compensation claims, no one has to have an attorney to represent them, but I would like to let you know what the Court of Appeals of North Carolina had to say on the subject; “…in contested workers’ compensation cases today, access to competent legal counsel is a virtual necessity.” Church v. Baxter Travenol Laboratories, Inc., 409 S.E.2d 715, 718 (1991).
Not everyone who calls our offices ends up hiring us to represent them. In certain situations we are able to answer the injured workers’ questions and give some free advice (for instance, we have a book which explains workers compensation cases available for free if you request it). In other cases, the worker decides that they want someone to help them; the choice is yours, but it is smart to at least call a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer with the questions you have.
If you were hurt at work and you have questions about your right to Alabama Workers Compensation benefits, please do not hesitate to call and speak with one of the experienced Alabama Workers Compensation Lawyers at Powell and Denny today.
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Alabama Job Injury Lawyer What is Right and Wrong with Alabama’s Comp System