Charles H. Jones, Jr., Attorney
Workers' Compensation
454 Conti Street
Mobile, AL 36602
(251) 438-4445
    I have represented many injured employees through the years.  Most people who call me have experienced their first work-related injury and are quite uncertain as to what benefits they should receive, what to expect from their employer and its workers’ compensation insurance company, or even how to report the injury and seek benefits.  What follows is a summary of some of the answers to the basic common questions.  This is provided for general purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice as to how to approach your particular claim.  Before you take any action, you should speak to an attorney in person to explain your personal situation in order to receive advice appropriate to you and your work injury.      

    The vast majority of Workers’ Compensation claims involve minor injuries and short-term medical treatment.  In most cases, the claim is handled without difficulty between the injured employee and his/her employer and its insurance company.  However, in cases involving more severe injuries, requiring long-term treatment, the loss of the ability to work, or even death, these claims are often disputed by the employer and/or its Workers’ Compensation insurance company.  It is these type cases that attorneys become involved with to help ensure that the injured employee receives the benefits to which he/she is entitled to under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.  The most common questions involve what the injured employee may be entitled to following his/her injury.  What follows is a basic summary of the general benefits an injured worker may be entitled to under the Alabama Worker’s Compensation Act.

    If you are injured at work, you should report the injury in writing immediately to your direct supervisor or other person in charge.  Although telling your supervisor is often sufficient, providing this notice in writing will prevent any claim that you did not tell your employer about the injury.  You should make notes of every possible witness to your injury as well as an discussions with any supervisors about your injury and every person to whom you speak about your injury and/or medical treatment.  In the event a dispute arises about your claim, these notes will be very useful to your attorney.  You should keep these notes even if you feel that you are being treated properly because, as your recovery progresses, a dispute may arise at any time.  You can be assured that your employer and its insurance company are making extensive records of every step of your treatment and recovery for the very same purpose in order to protect themselves in the event a dispute arises so you should do the same.  You should not see this as a “fight” from day one but simply keeping good records in case they are needed.     

    If you are injured on the job, you are generally entitled to payment of all medical expenses related to that injury for your entire lifetime.  These benefits include prescriptions and mileage to/from your doctor visits, medical procedures, physical therapy, etc.  Many employers (or more typically, the insurance company who is actually paying for the claim) will ignore benefits like mileage and may even encourage an injured employee to claim his/her medical treatment on his/her private health insurance as a method of avoiding paying for benefits.  It is important to remember that medical benefits are available for a compensable work injury generally so long as your physician is of the opinion that the treatment is related to that injury, no matter how long it has been since the injury.  
    Under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer has the right to select the physician who treats you.  If your employer refuses to authorize you to visit a physician following an injury, you should contact an attorney immediately.  If you are dissatisfied with the physician your employer has selected for you, you have the right to request a “panel of four” (a list of four physicians of similar practice to your present physician), from which to select a new physician.  Should you be dissatisfied with your physician, it is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney prior to making any selection from such a list because your attorney should be able to provide some insight into his knowledge of the physicians’ skill and temperament with regard to Workers’ Compensation claims.  You should remember that your employer’s insurance company assembled the list that you are allowed to choose from and they often include physicians whom they feel may be more inclined to attribute injuries to causes other than the workplace.  Since your employer and its insurance company utilize their knowledge of the physicians to provide you with the panel from which to select, you should utilize your attorney’s knowledge to assist you in making your selection from that list.  


    An injured employee is generally entitled to receive benefits for being off work during the period of recovery following an injury.  These benefits do not begin until you have missed at least 3 days of work as a result of the injury.  You should receive two-thirds (66%) of your average weekly earnings (Average Weekly Wage or AWW), paid on the same schedule that you receive your regular paycheck.  The most common error in this regard is that your employer or its Workers’ Compensation insurance company will calculate your AWW based on a 40-hour work week, without regard to any overtime your may have earned.  As most serious work injuries occur in industrial settings where overtime work is common, the failure to correctly calculate your AWW could result in a substantial underpayment while you are recovering.  To properly calculate your AWW, you should add up your total GROSS (pre-tax) income for the 52 weeks immediately prior to your injury and divide the total by 52.  There may be other factors to consider but this will provide a much more accurate estimate of your AWW than simply multiplying an hourly rate by a 40-hour week.  You should consult your attorney regarding calculating what your rate of pay should be while you are recovering, particularly if you have worked for your employer less than a full year, or if you have had any gaps in your employment during the past year.


    In most cases, you will receive benefits for a short period of disability while you recover from your injuries and then you will return to work, hopefully with no permanent problems.  However, more serious injuries may result in permanent physical disability, the inability to perform the same job, loss of limbs, or even the inability to work at all, resulting in permanent disability.  Under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, you are entitled to be compensated for any permanent disability you suffer from a compensable on-the-job injury.  This compensation may be a small sum of money, weekly benefits for a period of time, or, in the case of permanent total disability, weekly compensation so long as the disability remains (potentially for the remainder of your life).  If you have suffered an on-the-job injury that has resulted in any permanent problems and/or disability, you should speak with your attorney about what benefits you are entitled to.