Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
In the state of Arkansas, employers with three or more employees are required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees. In the case of an accident, injury or illness at work, workers’ compensation will help pay for medical expenses and may pay a portion of your wages while you are treating. Even though Arkansas law protects you, if you are injured on the job, it is not always easy to collect the benefits you are entitled to receive. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you during this time and ensure that your claim is processed fairly.
Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Not every injured worker needs a workers’ compensation lawyer. However, in order to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits to which you are entitled, it is highly recommended that you contact a lawyer in Arkansas. Your lawyer will be able to guide you through the process of filing a claim and will help you appeal any claim denials. This will give you the best chance of being successful and obtaining the money you need to recover.
Difference Between Workers’ Compensation Claim and Personal Injury Claim
There are major differences between filing a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim.
- No Fault – In an injury claim, injured accident victims must establish fault before receiving compensation. In a workers’ compensation claim, a worker who is injured on the job will receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. There are exceptions to this rule, however. An experienced attorney can help walk you through any exceptions.
- No Pain and Suffering – Unlike personal injury claims, workers who are injured on the job cannot collect money for pain and suffering and other emotional damages.
- No Full Loss of Wages – Unlike personal injury claims, workers who are injured at work will not receive their full loss of wages. Instead, workers are paid two-thirds of their salary and this amount is capped.
- Payments Received Quickly – Unlike personal injury claims that can take months or even years to settle, injured workers often begin receiving their benefits quickly and throughout their injury.
- Caps on Compensation – Workers’ compensation benefits are capped in Arkansas, and there are maximums to wage replacement benefits as well (§11-9-509).
Types of Employees/Industries
In Arkansas, only employees are allowed to collect workers’ compensation — not independent contractors. This distinction is important and can greatly affect your ability to collect benefits if you are injured. Some employers will try to classify an injured worker as an independent contractor in order to avoid paying claims.
At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyers have successfully represented a variety of workers who were injured on the job, including:
- Construction workers
- Logging and forestry workers
- Truck drivers
- Police and security workers
- Transportation workers
- Healthcare workers
- Farming workers
- Warehouse workers
- Manufacturing workers
Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Arkansas workers’ compensation law offers injured employees a variety of benefits, including:
- Medical benefits – In order to receive coverage, your employer must approve of the doctor treating you. Some of the expenses this covers includes:
- Doctor’s bills
- Surgical procedures
- Lab test costs
- Prescription costs
- Medical equipment
- Diagnostic testing costs
- Medical supplies
- Mental injury benefits – Some types of mental injuries are covered under Arkansas law. You must clearly establish that your mental condition arose strictly because of a physical injury that was sustained at work.
- Rehabilitation service benefits – If your injury requires physical rehabilitation or vocational rehabilitation, it may be covered. Physical rehabilitation must be ordered by your doctor, whereas vocational rehabilitation is only available if you can no longer perform the work you once did due to your permanent medical restrictions.
- Temporary total disability benefits – If you miss work because of your injury, then you are eligible to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wages over the past 52 weeks. There are maximums set by state law, however, so it is important to speak to an experienced Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyer.
- Permanent partial disability benefits – If your injury results in permanent impairment, then you may be able to keep receiving benefits even after you’ve returned to work. You will continue to receive benefits for a specified amount of time — dependent on how much of your body has been impaired.
- Permanent and total disability – If you are unable to work in any job because of your on-the-job injury, you may be entitled to disability payments for until age 65 under Arkansas workers’ compensation laws. That law will change in 2019, and injured workers’ who are declared permanently and totally disabled will only receive 450 weeks of additional payments.
How to Qualify for Workers’ Compensation
In order to qualify for workers’ compensation, your injury must have occurred during the course of your employment. This may be difficult to establish, especially if your injury occurred off-site or after hours. However, if you were injured while performing work duties then you are entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
Immediately after you are injured, you must notify your employer of your injury. Do not assume that your doctor or the hospital will have notified your employer. Once you have received medical treatment, you must report your injury and fill out an accident report describing the injury and how it occurred. Be accurate when filling out this report and only state the facts as you remember them.
Once your claim is filed, your employer’s insurance company will likely ask you for more information. They may request medical test records or ask to see your prior medical history. During this time, keep meticulous records of your doctor’s visits and any treatment you receive. Based on their findings, they will either approve or deny your claim.
Time Limits on Filing and Benefits
There are time limits on filing a claim and receiving benefits. In most cases, you must report your injury to your employer immediately. Failure to report your injury could result in you being unable to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Arkansas law does allow you up to two years from the date of the injury to file a claim, however, there are circumstances where you may only have one year to file (§11-9-701-702)
When it comes to receiving benefits, your benefits will begin on the ninth day of your disability. If you miss more than 14 days, you will receive back payment to the first day. Mental injury benefits are capped at 26 weeks.
Common Reasons Your Claim Was Denied
When your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you may be confused and frustrated. Even when your injury is legitimate and you are rightfully owed benefits, your claim can inexplicably be denied. When this occurs, have your case reviewed by an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
- Injury didn’t happen at work – Your injury must have occurred while you were at work and in the course of your employment. Driving to and from work does not count, nor does running errands during your lunch break. In order to collect workers’ compensation benefits, you must clearly establish that your injury occurred while you were performing job-related duties.
- Failed to notify employer in a timely manner – You must notify your employer as soon as possible after an injury accident. Failure to notify your employer often results in claim denials. The insurance company can claim that your injury did not happen on the job or that you were injured over the weekend or that it was the result of a pre-existing condition.
- Intoxicated at the time of the accident – While you don’t need to establish fault when filing for a workers’ compensation claim, if you were intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident, then you may not be eligible for benefits.
- Not treated by approved doctor – Your boss and their insurance company must approve of the doctor you seek for treatment. Failure to obtain approval could result in loss of benefits.
- Didn’t follow through with treatment – Failure to provide adequate documentation of injury and of treatment needed could result in your loss of benefits.
- Injury was a pre-existing condition – If you already had an injury, then you will not be eligible for workers’ compensation. If your job made a pre-existing injury worse, however, you might be eligible for benefits. In order to obtain benefits, your lawyer will have to clearly establish that the job you were required to do has significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.
- Employer disputes – There are times when your employer will dispute your claim outright. Sometimes employers dispute claims to avoid paying these claims. Other times, they dispute claims because they have valid evidence that you’re not being forthright. If they have surveillance footage or eye witness accounts that contradict your claim, then they will file a dispute.
How to Appeal a Denial
If your workers’ compensation claim was denied or you find fault with how much your disability payments are, then you can file an appeal with the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission to request a formal hearing. During the appeals process, having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side will be invaluable. Your attorney will protect your rights to benefits and clearly establish why you meet the necessary criteria for collecting workers’ compensation.
Once your appeal has been filed, the Workers’ Compensation Commission will notify your employer of your appeal and they will begin an investigation. During this time, your claim will likely enter mediation, where you and your employer’s insurance company will attempt to work out a settlement. If mediation fails, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
The appeals process can be difficult, complex and lengthy. Consult an Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyer prior to appealing a denied claim. You are entitled to benefits under Arkansas law. Our attorneys can help you file a workers’ compensation claim and file the necessary appeals if your claim is denied.
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