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Understanding Alaska's Workers Compensation Laws and Wage Rates

Alaska workers’ compensation laws exist to help workers and their families face the financial strain that a job-related injury can cause. Benefits exist to cover medical care related to the injury, as well as to provide compensation to help make up for wages lost while the employee misses work during recovery. Too often, injured workers fail to seek these benefits, and one common reason is that they simply don’t know exactly what these benefits might offer. Here, we take a look at the disability compensation pay.

Types of Alaska Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits

There are several different types of benefits available to injured workers in Alaska. The compensation a worker is paid depends on the nature of the injury and the future prognosis. Typically, workers’ compensation disability benefits pay workers 80 percent of their spendable weekly wage. Spendable weekly wage is equal to your take-home pay, or your gross pay minus all payroll tax deductions. Payment is made every two weeks, similar to many wage schedules.

It’s natural to have concerns about the amount of compensation the system provides. Many workers have earned a very steady pay in the months before the accident, and calculating their benefits is fairly straightforward. In these more clear cases, payment would be as follows:

  • Temporary total disability (TTD). Payments are calculated at 80 percent of the spendable weekly wage.
  • Temporary partial disability (TPD). Payments are calculated at 80 percent of the difference between your spendable weekly wage before and after injury. This takes into account the reduced amount the worker is able to earn during his recovery. For example, if your spendable weekly wage was $1,000 before the injury but only $500 during your recovery, workers’ compensation would pay 80 percent of the remaining $500, or $400.
  • Permanent total disability (PTD). Payment would be 80 percent of the spendable weekly wage.
  • Permanent partial impairment (PPI). This type of benefit is paid differently. A doctor will examine you to determine the extent of your permanent injury and provide an impairment rating. This rating will be a percentage, and compensation will be equal to that percentage. Alaska workers' comp law sets the monetary value of a whole person at $177,000, so in this case, the worker would receive 30 percent of $177,000, or $53,100. This is paid as a lump sum.
  • Death benefits. Surviving family members of workers who are killed as a result of a job-related injury or illness are eligible for benefits. Spouses and children can receive up to $10,000 for funeral costs, as well as a $5,000 payment. Additionally, dependents may be eligible for weekly compensation as outlined under temporary total disability.

It is possible that an injured worker could be eligible for more than one type of benefit. Commonly, a worker is eligible for both PPI and PTD benefits. Additionally, wage replacement benefits are subject to state-set minimums and maximums. The minimum amount for 2018 was $266, while the maximum was $1,211.

Calculating Rates for Disability and Death Benefits Based on Earnings

In other cases, however, workers may not have had lengthy employment, or their income may have fluctuated based on a variety of job-related factors. Pay dates could also have been offered on a monthly or irregular basis. Weekly compensation rates for those workers would follow these rules, if your earnings were calculated:

  • By the month. Pay would be your monthly earnings multiplied by 12 and divided by 52.
  • By the year. Pay would equal the yearly earnings divided by 52.
  • By hour, day, or output. Pay would equal 1/50 of the total wages that you earned from all occupations during either of the two calendar years immediately preceding your injury, whichever is larger.
  • With no fixed assessment or cannot be determined. Pay would be offered at an amount considered the usual wage for similar services. This amount can vary, and in these cases, it would be important to provide proof of current market rates for the work you performed.
  • Seasonally or temporarily. Pay would equal 1/50 of all the wages you earned in all occupations in the 12 calendar months preceding the injury. It is necessary to provide proof of income to the state board.

An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help You Get Full Benefits

While all benefits follow Alaska workers compensation guidelines, the actual amount of your compensation can vary depending on other factors. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney understands how each type of benefit can affect others, as well the importance of determining previous earnings and fighting for the correct impairment rating. Anchorage attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many injured Alaska workers investigate their rights and work to obtain the maximum compensation to which they are entitled. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury at work, workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits can provide important income during this challenging time. Contact Ben to learn more about your options. Call his Anchorage office today to speak directly with Ben, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to receive a prompt response.

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