The insurance companies pay their own attorneys and doctors substantially more than they are required to pay employees attorneys. In 2011, they spent a total of $11 million ($9.4 million and another $1.6 in litigation costs) to defeat employee’s claims. But they only paid employee attorneys a total of $4.4 million, less than half of what the spent on their own doctors and lawyers. Source: Alaska Workers Compensation Board Annual Report, 2011: http://labor.state.ak.us/wc/forms/2011AR.pdf.
Workers Compensation in Alaska is a multi-million dollar business. A total of $260.7 million was paid in benefits in 2011 including $160.4 million on medical benefits and $55.1 million in indemnity (TTD, TPD, PPI and PTD) benefits. These benefits include those paid to workers injured in prior years as well as 2011.
In 2011, over 21,000 workers were injured. Most of these injuries were to fingers and backs.
Employers filed 4,655 controversions in 3,550 cases in 2011, an increase of 18.1%. But only 1,224 claims were filed which means that there are well over 2,000 workers in 2011 alone who are not pursuing their rights under the Workers Compensation Act.
The Employers do not always file controversions which would alert the Employee to his rights when they treat Employees unfairly. The Employers will not tell you if you have the right to challenge the compensation rate which they have calculated or that you are entitled to travel benefits for every trip to a doctor or therapist. The Employers will not tell you that you have the right ask the Board to order the insurance company to pay for your surgery. The Employers will not tell you when you have the right to seek a Second Independent Medical Evaluation from the Board when the insurance doctor disagrees with you treating physician.
Bottom Line: There are many injured workers who are being controverted or treated unfairly that do not seek legal representation and the insurance companies spend are willing to pay hefty sums to keep from paying Employees. For more information regarding Workers Compensation benefits, visit: http://www.keenanpowell.com/faq-wc.html.
“Preexisting conditions” is an excuse that the insurance companies like to use to deny benefits. Frequently they will hire their own doctor ("IME") to say that an Employee’s need for medical treatment or his disability is not because the Employee was injured at work, but instead due to preexisting conditions, usually degenerative disc disease.
The law is clear: work-related injuries which aggravate, accelerate or combine with pre-existing conditions to cause a disability or need for medical treatment is still a Workers Compensation injury.
In 2011, 3,550 employee injuries were controverted but only one-third of those, 1,224, filed claims with the Alaska Workers Compensation Board and employers paid their attorneys $9.4 million in 2011 to defeat employee's claims. Source: Alaska Workers Compensation 2011 Annual Report.
All Employers are required by law to carry Workers Compensation insurance, yet many do not. When that happens, the Employees think they have no right to benefits but that is not true.
All Alaska employees are insured in case they are injured at work. The State of Alaska has a Guarantee Fund which pays the same benefits to injured workers which they would get if their Employer carried insurance. In order to collect these benefits, the Employee must file a Claim with the Alaska Workers Compensation Board.
In Workers Compensation cases, the amount of money which the Employee receives while off work (Temporary Total Disability, Temporary Partial Disability) is usually determined by looking at earnings during the previous two years, which is often unfair if the Employee had a much lower income in that time period. In those cases, the Employee can file a Claim with the Board asking for an adjustment of the compensation rate.
In Workers Compensation cases, an injured worker is free to leave Alaska while he is drawing benefits. However his compensation rate (how much he is paid for temporary total disability) will be adjusted for cost of living. To check the exact adjustment, go to the Workers Compensation Board's website, http://labor.state.ak.us/wc/home.htm. In the right hand side there is a menu. Go to "Bulletins". In the Bulletins section, look for the most recent bulletin regarding "Cost of Living Adjustment for Recipients Residing Outside of the State of Alaska". Currently that is Bulletin No 11-02. Your rate will be determined by the city which you live in or to which you are closest.
Effective January 1, 2013, the rate for reimbursement for workers compensation travel to medical appointments has been increased to 0.565 per mile. When you request reimbursement for travel from the insurance company, you need to accumulate $100 worth of reimbursements and you need to prepare a log showing the date of travel, the places traveled from and and to and the distance.
If you were injured at work, and you think someone is following you around, you're not paranoid. Insurance companies routinely hire private investigators to follow injured workers around, videotape and photographing them. In the cases I've handled, I've discovered photos and video of my clients going to doctors visits, going to the grocery store, pumping gas, hardly suspicious activity. So talk to your friends and neighbors and if you see someone sitting in a car in your neighborhood, go up to them, introduce yourself, ask their names and call a lawyer. The insurance company is preparing to controvert your claim.