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Despite simple premise, workers' comp is legally complicated

Suffering an injury on the job is not like being injured on your own time. Alabama's workers' compensation law entitles employees hurt at work to compensation under a no-fault system. Medical treatment for that injury, whatever it might entail -- doctor or hospital visits, prescriptions, medical equipment – is covered by workers' compensation insurance, not private coverage. Cash benefits to make up for lost wages can be part of the equation as well.

While simple in theory, this no-fault system is hardly that. If you need convincing, look at the index of the relevant Alabama state code. One glance at the myriad articles and subsections is likely to leave your head spinning. Trying to sort out what the law covers and under what conditions is challenging. In some cases, benefits you as a worker would likely deem fair and appropriate are capped by law.

One example of this is the maximum amount of cash benefit allowed for a permanent partial disability. By law, the maximum you can receive is $220 a week. That limit was set decades ago. It was never made subject to change due to inflation or the rising cost of living.

If you find that unacceptable, you are not alone. As AL.com reported not long ago, a Jefferson County circuit judge declared that provision and another in the law unconstitutional. That 2017 decision did not result in any direct change. However, observers say it did spur some policy makers to create a task force to examine possible changes – a scenario that has occurred before. The group has floated some ideas, but to date there has been no action.

The conclusion to draw from this is that while workers' compensation is meant to serve interests of both employees and employers, employees can be caught short for lack of information about their rights. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations and such consultations are how to fill in that information gap.

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