Employees who are injured at work in Alaska are covered by the state’s workers’ compensation system. Workers’ comp covers medical treatment and pays disability benefits to employees who need time off from work or who are permanently injured. This article explains the workers’ comp process in Alaska and how to start a claim if you were injured at work.
In Alaska, all private employers must have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Many employers meet this obligation by purchasing a policy from a private insurance company. The insurance company is responsible for reviewing claims and deciding whether to pay benefits. (Larger employers can also get the state’s approval to be self-insured, which means that they reviews claims and pay their employees directly.)
Workers’ compensation covers all injuries that happen in the course and scope of employment. For example, if you hurt your back while carrying heavy equipment at work, your injury will likely be covered. On the other hand, if you are injured during your lunch break while off-site, your injury probably will not be covered.
Workers’ comp is a no-fault system, which means that you can usually collect compensation regardless of who was at fault for the injury. However, certain injuries—such as those caused by the employee’s intoxication or intention to injure another person—are not covered. (For more information, see Workers’ Compensation: Is Your Injury or Illness Work-Related?)
The first step to making a workers’ comp claim is to report your injury to your employer. You must give written notice to your employer within 30 days. However, it is best to notify your employer as soon as possible. If you wait several days before reporting it, your employer or its insurance company might question the legitimacy of your claim.
The Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board publishes a form that employees can use to give notice: Employee Report of Occupational Injury or Illness to Employer (Form 07-6100). Be sure to keep a copy of the completed form for your records.
You should also get medical treatment right away. If you need emergency treatment, you may go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care. In Alaska, employees are allowed to choose their treating doctors for non-emergency treatment as well. If you want to change doctors during your workers’ comp claim, though, you will need to notify the insurance company beforehand.
Once you give notice of your injury, your employer should complete a Report of Injury and notify its insurance company. The insurance company will then evaluate your claim, usually by talking to you, your employer, and your doctors. The insurance company must accept or deny your claim within 21 days. If your claim is accepted, you will receive medical coverage and wage loss benefits almost immediately.
Workers’ compensation covers all necessary medical treatment related to your work injury. This includes the cost of doctors’ visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, and medical equipment. You can also receive disability benefits if you need time off work or if your injury causes permanent impairment.
If the insurance company denies your claim, you can challenge its decision with the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. (For common grounds for a denial, see Denied Workers’ Compensation Claims.) To do so, you must file a workers’ compensation claim with the Board within two years of your injury (or the last date of payment, if you received any benefit payments). You must also request a hearing with the Board within two years of the denial.
Many workers can handle the initial workers’ comp claim process on their own. If the insurance company readily accepts your claim and pays your benefits, you may not need to hire a lawyer. However, if the insurance company denies your claim or disputes the amount of benefits you are entitled to, you should consider hiring a lawyer. This is especially true if you need to attend a workers’ comp hearing, which follow complex procedural rules. For more information, see Should I Hire a Workers’ Comp Attorney or Can I Handle My Own Case?