Alabama Workers' Comp Blawg

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  On March 26, Governor Kay Ivey issued a proclamation that temporarily allows notaries who are licensed attorneys or operating under the supervision of a licensed attorney to notarize signatures through videoconferencing programs and confirm the signatures of witnesses who participate virtually through videoconferencing as if they were physically present at the signing.  In addition, any person who witnesses a document through videoconferencing technology can now be considered an “in person” witness, provided that the…
  New Jersey lawyer and nationally recognized workers’ compensation guru, John Geaney recently posted a COVID-19 Q&A on his award winning Blog site.  The questions are certainly relevant nationally and so the following are Alabama specific answers.   Question 1: What happens when an employer sends its employees home for several weeks out of a general concern for safety and for prevention of contagion? Must the employer pay workers’ compensation benefits? Answer: No, but the employee…
  On March 18, 2020, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tom Parker, issued an Order setting forth temporary rules regarding workers’ compensation settlements.  Per the Order, the following rules will be in effect through April 16, 2020:   Any workers’ compensation settlement hearing in any court may be conducted telephonically or by videoconferencing. Any workers’ compensation settlement may be approved by an ombudsman of the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) or by a circuit judge.…
  On March 18, 2020, the Director of the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) Workers’ Compensation Division, Steve Garrett, released a Memorandum concerning the Ombudsman Program.  ADOL  Ombudsmen travel the state and assist with finalizing settlements and also act as mediators at no cost to the parties.  Per the Memorandum, the ADOL is constantly monitoring the ongoing developments of COVID-19 and the effect it’s having on the ADOL and the services it provides.  Although the…
  In Alabama, an occupational disease is defined as “a disease arising out of and in the course of employment… which is due to hazards in excess of those ordinarily incident to employment in general and is peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged but without regard to negligence or fault, if any, of the employer.”   Therefore, for the coronavirus to be considered compensable in Alabama, the employee would have to be…
  Alabama Court Appearances Temporarily Suspended   On March 13, 2020, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an administrative order which suspended all court appearances for 30 days.  On March 15, 2020, the Court issued a second order which clarified that the first order only applied to in-person court proceedings.      Alabama Department of Labor Ombudsman Availability   The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 1992 established an Ombudsman Program.  Ombudsmen travel the state…
  Alabama State Representative Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) recently introduced House Bill 77, which would require employers and state agencies to use the guidelines specified by the Internal Revenue Service in order to determine whether a worker is an “employee” or an “independent contractor” for the purposes of employment benefits and tax liabilities.  HB-77 would specifically require the use of the IRS’s guidelines when determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.    Under current Alabama law, an…
  Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act has an exclusivity provision that shields employers from tort claims resulting from injuries, or death, caused by an accident or occupational disease that is related to workers’ employment. This is a fundamental principle of the Act, which is premised on employers’ accepting a duty to provide certain benefits and coverage to employees in exchange for employees being barred from asserting tort claims, like negligence or wantonness.   On February 28,…
  Regardless of whether a workers’ compensation settlement is finalized before a Circuit Court Judge or an ADOL Ombudsman, the ADOL Workers’ Compensation Division, must receive a completed WC-4 Claim Summary Form that identifies the county where the settlement was finalized.  This is a non-issue for court approved documents since they always reflect the county of filing.  However, for ombudsman settlements it is also required that the county be reflected on the WC-4. Forms are…