In a typical car accident, if a careless person hits you, you would begin by filing a claim against their insurance company. But some cases are different. If you’re injured in a car accident on the job, Alabama law gives you options.
If you’ve ever wondered, “What happens if I get hit by a car while I’m at work in Alabama?” this article is for you. We’ll answer many of the questions that come up when a person is injured in a car accident while on the job.
Where should I start if I’m hurt while driving on the job?
If a car accident happens while you’re driving for your job, you should begin by filing a claim for workers’ compensation – workers’ comp for short.
What is workers’ comp?
Workers’ comp is a special type of insurance that most companies carry. In Alabama, every business that has five full- or part-time employees must buy a workers’ compensation policy. Workers’ compensation covers any injuries that happen to employees during the course of their work.
Workers’ comp is a “no-fault” system. This means that you can apply for workers’ compensation benefits without proving that a particular person caused your injury. In fact, you can file a workers’ comp claim even if there are no witnesses to your injury.
When do I file a workers’ comp claim after an on-the-job car accident?
Under Alabama law, you have five days to notify your employer about the accident and the injury. Technically, you have two years to file your workers’ comp claim. But if you have serious injuries or cannot work, you should not wait because the workers’ compensation benefits can make things a bit easier financially.
What benefits does workers’ comp provide after a car accident?
If you’re hurt in a car accident while driving on the job, workers’ comp can help in many ways. Here are three important things to know.
First, once your workers’ comp claim is approved, your employer will be responsible for your medical bills. This responsibility lasts as long as the injury does. This means that if you have a serious injury, you could get medical care from workers’ comp for the rest of your life.
Second, if you are not able to work, workers’ comp will pay you two-thirds (66.67%) of your average weekly wage until you recover. (This is called temporary total disability.) The average is determined by using your earnings for the prior 52 weeks as reported on your federal W-2 form. If you haven’t been at your job for 52 weeks, your employer can use the W-2 of a co-worker with a similar job to calculate the average.
Third, if the doctor finds that you are permanently injured, you may be entitled to long-term disability payments. If your injury allows you to return to work with some limitations, you have a permanent partial disability. You could get a percentage of your average weekly wage – determined by the level of permanent damage – for up to 300 weeks. If your injury will not allow you to return to any sort of work, you have a permanent total disability. In this case, you could get two-thirds of your average weekly wage for the rest of your life.
Can I pick my own doctor if I file a worker’s comp claim after an on-the-job car accident?
Yes and no. If you get hit by a car while you’re working, workers’ comp makes your employer responsible for paying your medical bills. The tradeoff here is that the employer gets to pick the doctor. So, aside from emergency treatment right after the car accident, you will have to go to the doctor chosen by your employer.
But even in this system, there is a way to choose your own doctor – sort of. If you are truly unhappy with the care provided by the employer’s chosen doctor, you can ask them for a list of new doctors. They must give you a list of at least four names. You can choose a new doctor from that list.
Are there times when you can’t file a workers’ comp claim after an on-the-job car accident?
Most workers can file workers’ comp claims but there are a few instances where you might not be eligible. These include:
- Small companies. If your company has fewer than five employees Alabama law does not require them to carry workers’ comp insurance.
- Contractors. Only employees are eligible for workers’ comp. Workers’ comp policies do not cover independent contractors. It can be difficult to tell if you are an employee or a contractor, but generally, at the end of the year, employees get W-2s while contractors get 1099s. Also, employees usually have set hours, work at the employer’s place of business, and get paid by the hour or the week. On the other hand, contractors set their own hours, work wherever they like, and get paid per project. This can be a complicated question but an Alabama injury attorney can help you figure out how you should be classified.
- Did it happen on the job? The injury must happen on the job to qualify for workers’ comp benefits. You don’t have to be at your normal work building, but you do need to be performing a work-related task. For example, if a negligent driver hits you on your way to work, you would not qualify for workers’ comp because even though you were headed to work, you were not working at the time. However, if your boss tells you to drive to a meeting with a client and you are hit by a car on the way to that meeting, the situation is different. You would be entitled to workers’ comp because you were driving to a work-related task at the time of the accident. Similarly, if your boss tells you to walk across the street to do something work-related and you are involved in a pedestrian accident, you would be eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
Can you file a personal injury lawsuit after filing for workers’ comp?
Absolutely. While workers’ comp payments can help a lot after an on-the-job car accident, workers’ comp payments may not be enough to fully cover your financial and emotional losses. If this is the case, you could file a personal injury claim against the driver that hit you.
As in any personal injury claim, you will need to prove that the driver who hit you was negligent at the time ofthe car crash. (“Negligent” means that the driver was not following the proper standard of care, such as texting while driving or failing to stop at a red light.) Then, you must prove that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries. If you can prove these things, you might be entitled to many types of damages, including compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other financial losses. If the car accident caused you mental or emotional anguish, you could also seek damages for pain and suffering or loss of consortium. (Workers’ comp claims do not provide funds for pain and suffering.) A Birmingham accident lawyer will help you decide which damages are best in your case.
NOTE: If you win your negligence case, you may have to pay back some of the funds you received from workers’ comp. An experienced Alabama injury lawyer can tell you more.
Have you been injured in a car accident while driving for work?Hopefully, this article has helped you understand a bit more about how you can get help after being injured in an on-the-job car accident. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a car accident while driving for work, contact Collins Law, LLC. April H. Collins, our firm’s founder, is widely respected as one of Birmingham’s best personal injury lawyers. Our firm handles many cases, including car crashes, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and much more. We will treat you with kindness and compassion as we fight to get you the compensation you deserve. To book a free consultation, call us at 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool.