Frequently Asked Questions About Alaska Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation can be a confusing and daunting system. Many workers have little experience with work injury benefits, and it’s common to have many questions. Find the answers and information you’re looking for in these FAQs prepared by experienced injury attorney Ben Crittenden.
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What is the Alaska Fishermen’s Fund?
For most workers employed in the state of Alaska and around the country, a job-related injury would result in a workers’ compensation claim to obtain medical care and compensation to aid in the employee’s recovery. However, circumstances for seamen are a little different. Federal law dictates that fishermen receive work injury benefits under general maritime law and the Jones Act. Alaska, with its robust fishing industry, is the only state that offers additional benefits for injured seamen with the Fishermen’s Fund.
What Is the Alaska Fishermen’s Fund?
The fishermen’s fund “provides for the treatment and care of Alaska licensed commercial fishermen who have been injured while fishing on shore or off shore in Alaska,” according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The fund is considered a “payer of last resort,” which means benefits are provided only after other options (such as private insurance, vessel insurance, or government programs) are exhausted.
These benefits are similar to those provided by workers’ compensation, but federal law prohibits injured seamen from utilizing the typical workers’ compensation system. Rather, they may pursue care and compensation under the Jones Act. In Alaska, the Fishermen’s Fund uses revenue collected from state fishing licenses and permits to finance medical benefits for injured seamen.
Who Qualifies for Fishermen’s Fund Benefits?
Eligibility for benefits from the Fishermen’s Fund is very specific. To receive aid from the fund, an injured seaman must:
- Have an injury directly related to his work as a commercial fisherman
- Hold a valid commercial fishing license or limited entry permit dated before the time of injury
- Have been injured in Alaskan waters or onshore in Alaska
- Receive medical treatment within 60 days of injury
- Apply for Fishermen’s Fund aid within one year of the injury
- Document each treatment through a medical note and submit the note to the state
The Benefits of the Fishermen’s Fund and How to Obtain Them
The Fishermen’s Fund can provide compensation for the costs related to the medical care and treatment of the fishing injury. These costs can include:
- Doctor visits
- Chiropractic care
- Transportation to and from provider appointments
Injured seamen can file for aid from the Fishermen’s Fund by submitting an application and a number of supporting documents. The criteria for benefits are strictly followed by the state; any error/omission in applying or providing the proper paperwork would likely result in a denial of benefits. An experienced attorney can help injured seamen understand their rights and responsibilities, determine the proper channels to seek benefits, and ensure that the request is filed completely and on time.
Contact an Experienced Alaska Work Injury Attorney
Commercial fishing has been named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Maritime injuries can be severe, and a lack of proper medical care can affect workers and their families for years to come. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries while working as a fisherman, you may be eligible to receive benefits from the state’s Fishermen’s Fund, and an experienced lawyer can help you fully understand your options. Attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many Alaska seamen and their families after a job-related injury. Call Ben today in his Anchorage office or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page. He can learn more about your situation and help you decide how to move forward most effectively.
How long does it take to resolve a workers’ compensation claim in Alaska?
This is a natural question for injured workers. When you’ve suffered injuries on the job, you’re missing work, and the medical bills start showing up in your mailbox, you want to know how quickly you can receive benefits. How long will your workers’ compensation claim take? It’s impossible to say exactly, but there are a number of factors that can give you an indication of how soon your claim can be resolved.
Factors That Affect the Timeline of an Alaska Work Injury Claim
Simple, straightforward claims can be resolved quickly. Alaska law states that the employer or insurer has 14 days from notice of the injury to make the first payment. It is important for injured workers to notify employers of any injury as quickly as possible so that they may receive care and compensation benefits right away.
However, other cases may take more time and require more work. Those scenarios could include:
- The employer or insurer has denied your claim.
- You are considering a settlement.
- Your employer does not have the required workers’ compensation insurance.
When Your Alaska Work Injury Claim Is Denied
If your claim has been unfairly denied, it is possible to appeal that decision to the state’s board of workers’ compensation. The employer or its insurance company has three weeks to respond to an appeal. If they maintain their denial, the matter would have to be taken to a hearing. Preparations for a hearing could take time, depending on the severity of injuries and the availability of the board.
Settling Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Settling a workers’ compensation claim is complicated, and the decisions should not be taken lightly. Once a settlement agreement is reached, it is extremely difficult to revisit the settlement to make any changes. A settlement may take time due to:
- Recovery. In Alaska, a settlement can only be reached when the injured worker has reached medical stability. This means the injuries have healed as much as care providers expect. The nature of the injuries will dictate this timeline.
- Investigation. An employer or its insurance company, as well as the injured worker’s lawyer, will have to conduct an investigation. This investigation will cover a wide range of information, from the initial accident itself to the future medical prognosis.
- Negotiation. There will be some amount of back and forth with an employer or its insurance company. These businesses want to protect their own financial interest, and they will do what they can to save themselves as much money as possible.
If Your Employer Doesn’t Have Insurance and Isn’t Self-Insured
Alaska law states that every employer with more than one employee must either purchase private workers’ compensation insurance or self-insure, with very limited exceptions. Even if an employer has violated this law, injured workers can still obtain care and compensation through what is known as the Workers’ Compensation Benefits Guaranty Fund. To obtain benefits through the fund, an injured worker must file a claim.
Obtaining the Care and Compensation Injured Workers Need
It may be difficult to know from the start just how long a work injury claim will take. However, regardless of the timeline, the medical care and compensation provided by these claims can make a world of difference for injured workers and their families. An injury that keeps a worker off the job can have significant effects on his family, his lifestyle, and his future. Don’t take chances if you’ve suffered an injury on the job. Even if you aren’t sure if you are eligible for benefits or how long the process may take, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your rights.
At the Law Office of Ben Crittenden, Anchorage-based attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many injured workers and their families obtain the care and compensation they both needed and deserved. He can answer your questions and help you understand what to expect from the Alaska workers’ compensation system. He offers free, no-obligation consultations to help injured workers get all the information they need to move forward as successfully as possible. Call his office today or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch directly with Ben.
How are workers’ compensation attorneys paid in Alaska?
Workers often have the same main concerns after some condition at work has left them injured or ill. First, how can they recover as completely and quickly as possible? And second, how will they pay their bills and maintain their financial stability during recovery? These are important and valid concerns, and injured workers and their families may need help finding the right answers. It can be difficult, however, to know where to find these answers, and too often, injured workers fail to seek legal advice because they are worried about the cost of an experienced and effective lawyer. A good attorney can be affordable, though. Here we explain how a workers’ compensation attorney is paid.
A Fee Agreement That Protects Injured Workers
Most workers’ compensation attorneys, including Anchorage attorney Ben Crittenden, use an agreement known as a contingent fee. A contingent fee means clients only pay if the case is successful. If the attorney does not get compensation for the injured worker, the worker owes the attorney nothing. If the case is successful, the attorney is paid directly from the award provided by the insurance company. The injured worker does not have to reach into his own pocket to provide a retainer nor or to pay for other work the attorney does on his behalf leading up to the decision by the workers’ compensation board. At times, there may be nominal fees, such as filing fees, incurred by the worker as the claim progresses.
While some attorneys charge a percentage of the award, attorney Ben Crittenden charges on an hourly basis. If the claim is successful, Ben will bill his client only for the time he spent on the claim. All details of billing and payment will be clearly explained by Ben when you meet to discuss your case.
The Cost of Not Hiring an Alaska Workers’ Compensation Attorney
While the thought of paying an attorney may be unappealing, the cost of NOT hiring an experienced lawyer may be even greater. Workers’ compensation benefits provide vital medical care and compensation that injured workers and their families rely on during a difficult time. Your employer and their insurance company will likely attempt to reduce their own liability or deny your benefits altogether. If you have been injured or fallen ill on the job, you need these benefits. Without an experienced advocate in your corner, you may miss out on the care and compensation you deserve.
Additionally, while this is not a court of law, the decisions of the state workers’ compensation board are binding, and it can be incredibly difficult to change their decision once it is handed down. Get the help you need right from the start. Call Anchorage-based attorney Ben Crittenden or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page today. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation and learn more about your rights.
Am I eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if I was responsible for the accident that caused my injury?
Before the adoption of the workers’ compensation system, work injuries could be a nightmare for both employees and employers. While workers struggled to get the medical care they needed, employers were left short staffed and faced negligence lawsuits. To help both sides move forward as smoothly as possible, the workers’ compensation system evolved on two main tenets: workers could not sue their employers, but would get medical and lost wage benefits regardless of fault.
When You Are Responsible for Your Injuries
Workers’ compensation benefits are provided much like no-fault insurance. If an injury occurs at the workplace, regardless of whose actions are to blame, the injured worker can obtain benefits. As long as the injury results from the course of employment, there is no issue with fault. Injuries commonly occur when employees plan improperly, fail to adhere to safety guidelines, or simply lose focus. These behaviors will not typically keep an injured worker from receiving the medical care and wage replacement benefits they need to recover as fully as possible.
Exceptions to the No-Fault Workers’ Compensation Rules
There are, however, certain situations in which an injured worker’s behavior can negatively affect his eligibility for benefits. In Alaska, there are two key exceptions to the no-fault rules. Workers may be denied benefits if the injury is caused by either:
- The worker’s intent to willfully injure or kill another person.
- The worker’s intoxication by drugs or alcohol.
Learn More About Your Rights as an Injured Alaska Worker
Too many times, injured employees fail to even file for the benefits to which they are entitled because they worry their role in the injury will be an obstacle. This is typically not the case and attorney Ben Crittenden helps Alaska workers understand their rights and find the most effective way forward after a work injury. Even if you aren’t sure if you are eligible for these benefits, contact Ben today to discuss your unique situation. He can help you determine what to do next and provide the guidance you need to be successful during this difficult time. Call his Anchorage office or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch directly with Ben, and take the first step to as full a recovery as possible.