Health care workers in Alabama, from nurses and doctors to radiology technicians, face a significant risk of injury, illness and disease due to the demanding and often hazardous nature of their jobs. Whether it’s exposure to infectious diseases, the physical demands of patient care, or the psychological strain of high-stress environments, these dedicated professionals navigate a landscape rife with potential health risks every day.
Fortunately, Alabama’s workers’ compensation system recognizes the vital role of health care workers, offering benefits for those who suffer from work-related injuries or health conditions. These benefits provide medical care, income replacement, and rehabilitation services to ensure that health care workers can recover and return to the critical work they do, safeguarding the health and well-being of the Alabama community.
If you have questions about the benefits you’re entitled to after reading this article or would like assistance filing a claim, reach out to the experienced Birmingham work injury attorneys at Nomberg Law Firm for a free consultation.
Surprising but true
Hospitals are among the most dangerous workplaces in the U.S., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2019 alone, U.S. hospitals saw 221,400 work-related injuries and illnesses, translating to 5.5 incidents per 100 full-time workers—nearly double the average rate across all private sectors.
Also notable, from 2019 to 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that Alabama saw a whopping 275% increase in nonfatal injuries and illnesses among registered nurses requiring time off work.
Which injury is most common among health care workers?
Among health care workers, particularly registered nurses, the most common injury or illness leading to time away from work is illness from exposure to harmful substances or environments. In 2020, there was a significant spike in such incidents, with 55,750 cases reported, compared to 660 cases in 2019.
This dramatic rise, a 290% increase, was largely attributed to work-related COVID-19 exposures. This category of injury, including infections and exposure to other hazardous materials, underscores the heightened risks that health care workers face, particularly during global health crises.
Beyond exposure to harmful substances or environments, health care workers face several other common injuries due to the nature of their work, including:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Resulting from repetitive tasks, manual handling of patients, and long hours spent in static postures, MSDs such as back injuries, sprains and strains are prevalent among health care workers.
- Slip, trip and fall injuries. Wet floors, hurried movements and cluttered workspaces contribute to slips, trips and falls, making them a significant risk. These accidents can lead to a wide range of serious injuries, including fractures and brain injuries.
- Needlestick and sharps injuries. Regular use of needles and other sharp instruments can lead to accidental punctures, exposing workers to bloodborne pathogens.
- Injuries due to violence. Health care workers, especially those in emergency departments and psychiatric units, are at an increased risk of violence from patients or visitors. These incidents can lead to severe injuries to the head and spinal cord.
- Stress and burnout. The high-pressure environment, emotional demands of patient care, and long working hours can lead to stress, burnout, and related mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In most cases, health care workers who suffer these and other work-related injuries, illnesses or diseases are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault for their condition, as long as it occurred within the “course and scope” of their employment.
What does workers’ comp cover in Alabama?
In Alabama, workers’ compensation provides comprehensive coverage that extends beyond what employer-provided health insurance typically offers, ensuring that those who suffer a work-related injury or occupational disease receive the support they need to recover and, if possible, return to work.
Key workers’ comp benefits include:
- Medical benefits with no copay. Workers’ compensation covers all necessary medical treatments related to the work injury or illness without any out-of-pocket expenses for the employee, such as copays or deductibles. This includes doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, surgeries and rehabilitative therapies.
- Wage loss benefits. If an injury or illness prevents a worker from performing their job, workers’ compensation provides wage replacement benefits. These benefits are a percentage of the worker’s average weekly wage (typically two-thirds) and are designed to help mitigate the financial impact of not being able to work. There are different types of wage loss benefits, including temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD), permanent partial disability (PPD), and permanent total disability (PTD), depending on the nature and severity of the injury.
- Vocational rehabilitation. For workers who cannot return to their previous employment due to their injuries, workers’ compensation offers vocational rehabilitation services. This can include job training, education, resume writing assistance and job placement services to help injured workers find new employment within their physical capabilities.
- Death benefits. In the unfortunate event that a worker dies as a result of a job-related injury or illness, workers’ compensation provides death benefits to the worker’s dependents. This includes a portion of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage paid to the spouse, children or other dependents, as well as coverage for funeral and burial expenses.
These benefits are designed to ensure that workers injured on the job in Alabama receive the necessary medical care, financial support and resources to recover and maintain their quality of life after a workplace injury or illness.
How do I file a workers’ comp claim in Alabama?
Filing a workers’ compensation claim in Alabama involves a few critical steps to ensure that your rights are protected and you receive the benefits you’re entitled to:
- Seek medical care immediately. It’s crucial to get medical attention as soon as possible after an accident, even if you don’t feel injured right away. Prompt medical care not only addresses your health needs but also provides documentation of your injuries, establishing a link to your workplace accident.
- Report your injury in writing. You must notify your supervisor or manager in writing within 5 days of your injury (or when you became aware of your illness or disease). This step is essential, even if you believe your employer is already aware of the accident, to avoid any potential confusion and to officially start the claims process. Failing to report your injury or illness within this timeframe can complicate your claim, but you should still provide notice as soon as you can. Be aware that waiting more than 90 days to report an injury or illness can lead to your claim being automatically denied, except in cases where you were unable to report due to physical or mental incapacity.
- Ensure your employer files a first report of injury. After you’ve reported your injury, your employer is obligated to file a First Report of Injury form with their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. This form details the nature of your injury and your earnings, and it is a vital part of initiating your claim. While it’s their responsibility to file this form, you should follow up to make sure they do so.
- Consider legal assistance. If you suffer a serious injury or if your claim is denied, seeking the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be a wise decision. An attorney can guide you through the claims process, help protect your rights, and work to ensure you receive the full range of benefits you’re entitled to under Alabama law.
Please note that in Alabama, most businesses with 5 or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, so it’s likely that you’re eligible to file a claim and receive benefits in the event of a workplace injury or illness.
Get help from an experienced Alabama workers’ compensation attorney
At Nomberg Law Firm, we understand the unique challenges that health care workers face when filing a workers’ compensation claim. Our knowledgeable Birmingham work injury attorneys are deeply familiar with the complexities of Alabama’s workers’ compensation laws and are dedicated to ensuring that health care professionals receive the support and benefits they deserve.
Whether you’re dealing with injuries from patient handling, exposure to infectious diseases, or the mental toll of working in high-stress environments, our attorneys are here to guide you through the claim process. We’ll work tirelessly to ensure that your medical expenses are covered, that you’re compensated for lost wages, and that you receive any necessary rehabilitation services to return to work.
We believe that health care workers who dedicate their lives to caring for others deserve the highest level of support when they themselves are in need. That’s why we offer a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.
Contact us today to learn how we can help maximize your claim.