If your workers’ comp claim has been denied, or you disagree with the amount of your benefits, you can dispute the decision with the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board (AWCB). The appeals process is outlined below. For an overview of eligibility and benefits, see our article on filing a workers’ comp claim in Alaska.
The Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board (AWCB) resolves workers’ compensation disputes. If the insurance company has denied your benefits, you may file a claim with the AWCB using Form 07-6106. You must submit the claim form within two years of your injury—or, if the insurance company paid any benefits on your claim, within two years of your last payment.
Once you file your claim, the insurance company must respond in about 20 days. After that, you and the insurance company will have an opportunity to gather evidence in a process called “discovery.” The insurance company might ask you to answer written questions, sit for a deposition, or submit to a medical examination by a doctor of its choosing. Once the discovery process is complete, you will need to request a hearing.
Before going to a hearing, you and the insurance company will have an opportunity to engage in settlement negotiations. Either party can initiate this process by requesting a mediation. A mediation is an informal conference, where a neutral third party from the AWCB will try to help you and the insurance company reach an agreement. Unlike a judge, the mediator will not make a decision in your case. If you’re unable to agree on a settlement, you will continue on to a hearing.
A prehearing conference will be automatically scheduled if you are not represented by a lawyer. At the conference, a workers’ compensation judge will ask questions, identify the issues in dispute, and go over what evidence will be presented at the hearing. If you are represented by a lawyer, your lawyer may request a prehearing conference.
When the discovery process is finished, either party may submit an Affidavit of Readiness for Hearing (Form 6107). The AWCB will then notify the parties of the date and time of the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will hear from both sides, review evidence and testimony presented by the parties, and make a decision. The decision is usually mailed within 30 days of the hearing.
A workers’ compensation hearing is a formal proceeding that requires detailed knowledge of substantive and procedural workers’ comp rules. Because of this, most workers will need to hire an experienced workers’ comp attorney in order to obtain a favorable judgment.
If you are not satisfied with the judge’s decision after the hearing, you can appeal to the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission within 30 days. This is a second level of administrative review by a panel of three commissioners. The panel will not hold another hearing, but it will receive written briefs from both parties. Either party may also request to make oral arguments in person. The panel will also review the transcript of the hearing and the evidence submitted to the workers’ comp judge. You should receive a decision within 90 days.
If the Appeals Commission does not rule in your favor, you may appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court. The order from the Appeals Commission will tell you when and how to file your appeal. Complicated procedural rules apply to any case brought in civil court, including appeals of workers’ compensation denials. If you haven’t already, you should consult with a workers’ comp attorney before filing an appeal in court.