If you are injured on the job, what should you do? First and foremost, report the injury to your employer. You need a record of the injury so they cannot say you weren’t injured. It is best to do this in writing, whether you write it or make sure your supervisor writes it. The record needs to show (1) what, specifically, caused your injury; (2) where it occurred; (3) when it occurred; and (4) who the witnesses were if there were any.
In Alabama, if you are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers compensation. What does that include? If you are temporarily disabled for one week, you are entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage (if it’s $600 per week, you should be receiving $400). You are also entitled to medical treatment. Initially, your employer may tell you what doctor or hospital to go to. However, once the workers compensation insurance carrier gets involved, they will tell you where you must seek treatment.
Many times, the initial authorized treating physician is not the appropriate type of physician for your injury. If that’s the case, that physician may refer you to a specialist. But, if that physician does not refer you to a specialist, you can request a panel of four physicians, and the insurance carrier MUST provide you with such a panel. The panel of 4 must include four doctors from different groups. YOU MAY NOT GO TO A DOCTOR WHO IS NOT AUTHORIZED BY THE INSURANCE COMPANY!!
There are several acronyms associated with workers compensation claims: AWW, TTD, MMI, PPD, and PT. AWW stands for Average Weekly Wage. TTD stands for Temporary Total Disability. MMI means Maximum Medical Improvement. PPD means Permanent Partial Disability. PT stands for Permanent Total Disability. Each of these acronyms are important when assessing what type of compensation you may receive.
When the authorized doctor places you at MMI, it means you are as good as you are going to get. Usually, the doctor will assign you an impairment rating. That rating is the place where you start to determine what the compensation should be. The question at that point is: are you back at work making the same wage you were making before the injury? If the answer is yes, you are limited to the impairment rating. If the answer is no, you might be entitled to a disability rating.
What is a disability rating? Say you have a lawyer and a piano player. Each loses their left hand in an on-the-job injury. Each will have the exact same impairment rating – the loss of a left hand pursuant to the American Medical Association guidelines. However, their disability ratings would be vastly different – the lawyer can still practice law, but the piano player can no longer play piano. Consequently, the piano player will need a vocational expert to assess his disability based upon his injury, his education, his age, his work experience, and the potential for employment in the area.
One important thing to note with workers compensation claims is that you are not entitled to pain and suffering or punitive damages. It is a tradeoff. You don’t have to prove your employer was negligent to recover. You only have to prove you were injured on the job, even if it was your fault. The area of workers compensation can be complicated so you should always be careful when making decisions regarding your claim without an attorney’s advice.