Alaska is home to many dangerous industries. Oil and gas workers, miners, loggers, truckers, commercial fishermen, and agricultural workers are at high risk of an on-the-job injury, which is why Alaska's workers' compensation program is so important. Almost every employee in Alaska is covered for workplace injury and illness by some form of insurance. For most of them, that means workers' compensation. There are a few exceptions.
Which Employers Must Provide Workers' Comp?
It's pretty simple. The Alaska Workers' Compensation Act requires every employer with one or more employees to purchase workers' comp insurance to pay medical bills and lost wages after a workplace injury or illness. So, whether you are the sole employee of a small business or one of a hundred warehouse workers, you should have the same workers' comp coverage. One exception to this rule is that business owners and executives are exempt from having to cover themselves. For example, if you are a partner in a partnership or a member of a limited liability company (LLC) with at least a 10 percent ownership, you do not have to purchase workers' comp to cover yourself.
While no type of employer is exempt from providing coverage to their workers, certain categories of workers do not have to be covered. These include:
- Non-commercial cleaning persons
- Part-time babysitters
- Part-time harvest help
- Taxicab drivers under specific contractual arrangements
- Participants in the Alaska temporary assistance program engaged in required work activities
- Drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft
Under Alaska's Workers' Compensation Act, special categories of unpaid, part-time, and temporary workers are covered as employees of the state. These include:
- High school students in certain work-study programs
- Volunteer EMTs and firefighters
- Special public safety officers appointed by the Commissioner of Public Safety
- People engaged in civil defense or disaster relief efforts
- Members of the Alaska State Defense Force who have been called into active duty
Your employer is required to post information about their workers' comp insurance company in a location that is visible to employees so that you know who to contact if you are injured.
What Is a Self-Insured Employer?
Alaska does allow certain kinds of companies to carry insurance outside the Alaska workers' comp system. In general, these are national or international chains, such as Wal-Mart and Target. Alaska requires that a self-insured company have at least 100 employees and a net worth of at least $10 million. These employers must have a Certificate of Self-Insurance issued by the state of Alaska, which must be renewed every year. If you work for a self-insured employer, you will file a claim with their private insurance company, and the Alaska Division of Workers' Compensation would have no involvement with the claim.
What Is the Fishermen's Fund?
Another exception to workers' comp coverage is commercial fishermen. That is because these workers are covered by a special program called the Fishermen's Fund. Any commercial fisherman with a valid commercial fishing license or limited entry permit dated before the time of injury or illness can qualify for benefits if they are injured on the job. This program is administered by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development with the assistance of the Fishermen's Fund Advisory and Appeals Council.
What Do I Do If My Employer Is Uninsured?
Just because employers are required by state law to carry workers' comp insurance, that doesn't mean every employer complies. If you are hurt at work and discover that your employer does not have workers' comp insurance, you can file for coverage with the Alaska Workers' Compensation Benefits Guaranty Fund. If you meet the following conditions, you should qualify for benefits from the Fund:
- You were an employee of an uninsured employer at the time of injury.
- Your injury or illness was caused by your work for the uninsured employer.
- You filed a claim with your uninsured employer and a separate claim with the Fund within two years of the injury.
- The Alaska Workers' Compensation Board ordered your employer to pay benefits to you.
- Your employer was found to be in default of the Board's order.
This is a complicated process and is best handled with the help of a worker's comp attorney.
Ben Crittenden Helps Injured Workers
At The Law Office of Ben Crittenden, attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many injured workers obtain the care and compensation they need to be successful after an injury. He is here to help you understand your rights and pursue the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled, whether it is workers' comp, private insurance, the Fishermen's Fund, or the Guaranty Fund. Contact our Anchorage office if you need help after an on-the-job injury.