5 critical steps to take following a workplace injury
Workers’ compensation benefits are available for most work-related injuries in Alabama. Unfortunately, the benefits won’t magically fall into your lap. There are 5 critical steps you need to take following your workplace injury to avoid missing out on workers’ compensation completely.
Step 1: Notify your employer
Alabama Code 25-5-78 requires that you provide your employer with written notice of your workplace injury within 5 days after the occurrence of the injury.
The failure to provide notice within 5 days will result in the denial of your workers’ compensation claim unless you can prove that you were prevented from providing notice by reason of physical or mental incapacity (e.g., you were in a coma). In any case, if written notice isn’t provided within 90 days, your claim will be denied regardless of your situation.
Nevertheless, it’s best to be safe and provide your employer with written notice. We recommend sending the notice by “certified mail with return receipt requested” so you have proof of receipt.
The notice you provide does not have to have a ton of detail. In fact, it’s better to keep the notice short and to the point. Avoid drawing any conclusions about the accident or your injury, and instead, stick to the facts.
One thing to keep in mind: In order to meet the notice requirement, your employer must be notified that you were injured—not just that you were involved in an accident.
Sample notice of workplace injury letter to employer
Name of supervisor
Dear (Name of Supervisor):
Please accept this letter as written notice that on (date) at approximately (time), I was involved in a workplace accident. I was injured when (give a very brief description of what happened).
Immediately after the accident, I spoke with (name of the person with whom you spoke) and reported what happened.
Given the uncertainties regarding my condition, it will be necessary to file a workers’ compensation claim. Please let me know when you have filed the necessary paperwork. In the meantime, please provide me with the name and contact information of the medical provider with whom I should seek treatment.
Thank you for your assistance,
Step 2: Seek medical attention
According to Alabama workers’ comp laws, your employer is permitted to select your treating physician. The right of your employer to select your treating physician begins on the date you provide your employer with the accident notice (not the date your workers’ compensation claim is filed or approved).
As a result, it’s important to check with your employer after a workplace injury to find out your authorized physician’s contact information.
Although your employer has the right to select your treating physician, you can request a list of 4 other physicians if you're unhappy with the physician selected. However, you’re typically only allowed to change physicians once.
If you refuse to comply with any reasonable request for examination or if you refuse to accept the medical services recommended by your authorized physician, your right to compensation may be suspended.
Step 3: Make certain your employer files the necessary form
Once you report your injury, it’s your employer's responsibility to file a First Report of Injury Form (also known as “WCC Form 2”).
WCC Form 2 includes information about your injury and how it occurred. It also includes information about your wages.
If your employer refuses to file WCC Form 2, you should contact an Alabama workers’ compensation attorney or the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Ombudsman Program as soon as possible.
Your workers’ compensation claim will not be considered “filed” when you provide notice of your injury to your employer and request workers’ compensation benefits. You only have 2 years to file a workers’ compensation claim before the claim is forever barred.
Step 4: Wait to receive a decision from the insurance company
Once the insurance company receives the WCC Form 2, the investigation of your claim can begin.
As part of this investigation, you can expect an investigator to contact you and your employer to get the facts of the case. You can also expect that an investigator will review your social media accounts. Consequently, you shouldn’t have any information on your accounts that could be used against you (such as photos of you participating in an activity you claim you’re unable to participate in due to your injury).
Step 5: Dispute the decision if necessary
Once the investigation is complete, your claim will be approved or denied.
Unlike most states, Alabama does not have a court process available to hear workers’ compensation disputes. Instead, you have a couple of options if your claim is denied:
- File a lawsuit with the Alabama district court, or
- Attempt to resolve the dispute with the help of the Ombudsman.