Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Questions & Answers

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a government-enforced insurance policy that protects employees from financial losses due to injury or illness sustained in the workplace. Every qualified employer is required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Employers cannot pass any part of the cost of the workers’ compensation insurance to the employee.

If you think your employer is charging you for workers’ compensation coverage, WALKER & HARP can help you sort it out. Call us at 479-783-5000.

The government determines qualified employers in Arkansas as businesses with three or more employees that are not covered by the federal government, such as railroads and maritime companies. There are some exceptions to the three-or-more rule, so if you think you should be covered, the team at WALKER & HARP can give you more information.

Employers are required by Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law to post a notice in the workplace detailing the steps an injured employee must take to comply with workers’ compensation injury. Your employer also has the right to decide which doctor(s) you can see for workers’ compensation treatment and should post that information as well.

However, emergency care is the exception to the requirement to use only authorized doctors for workers’ compensation injury treatment. If your injury requires immediate treatment, you (or your coworkers on your behalf) should seek emergency care. Your employer will be required to cover emergency care costs, even if you do not see an authorized doctor on their workers’ compensation policy.

Who is Covered by Workers’ Compensation?

The Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Law covers nearly every worker in the state. That said, your business is probably not covered if you have only one or two employees.

As mentioned above, railroads and maritime businesses are not covered by the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law because they are covered by federal law.  Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law also excludes agricultural farm labor, domestic help, or employment by non-profit, religious, charitable, or relief organizations from workers’ compensation coverage.

What is Covered by Workers’ Compensation?

If you are injured while working, then the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law will apply and you will have coverage. However, you will need to meet a few requirements for your case to be valid. Under this law, the injury must have been caused by a specific incident that occurred at an identifiable date, time, and place. For example, if you were injured because you slipped on leaking fluid at work, you know exactly when and where you fell.

There are some exceptions to the specific moment in time rule.  You may have protection if your injury is the result of a rapid repetitive motion injury. Some common injuries of this nature include carpal tunnel syndrome, the gradual onset of a back injury, or hearing loss. To qualify for worker’s compensation benefits, you need to prove that over 50% of the injury happened at work. When it is more than 50%, the state sees this as the major cause. 

Do you have injuries due to repetitive motion on the job? Even if you are unsure if you meet the major cause rule, Contact WALKER & HARP to get started on building your case.

Are Mental Health Injuries Covered?

Under Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law, mental health injuries are only covered if they are the result of a physical injury covered by workers’ compensation.  Moreover, mental health benefits are limited to 26 weeks.  If you are the victim of a violent crime at work, the physical injury requirement is waived for mental health coverage.

Are Heart Attacks Covered?

As with mental health injuries, injuries caused by a heart attack are only covered if a physical injury or exertion triggered the heart attack.  Let’s look at an example.

One day, your employer requires you to perform tasks that are not your usual work and you suffer a heart attack as the result of the exertion of performing those “extraordinary and unusual” tasks. In this case, the injuries related to the heart attack will be covered by workers’ compensation.

There is another when it comes to heart attacks. You might not have coverage if there was an unusual or unpredicted event that triggered the heart attack. Regardless, you should contact one of our workers’ compensation attorneys to see if you qualify.

Are Illnesses Covered?

If you catch a cold from a coworker, workers’ compensation will not apply. If you become ill because of your work conditions or the type of work you do, your illness might be covered under the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law. There are time limits attached to various occupational illnesses, so please contact WALKER & HARP immediately if you suspect your work caused your illness.

How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?

When Does Coverage Begin?

Workers’ compensation insurance covers you from your first moment on the job.  Unlike other health benefits, which can be attached to probation periods or vestment periods, workers’ compensation is employer-based, not employee-based.

What are the Steps to Follow for a Successful Workers’ Compensation Claim?

The first thing you should do is notify your employer or supervisor of the injury. If possible, make the notification in writing. Be sure to identify the date, time, place, and circumstances of the injury. You will want to include the names of any other employees involved in or witness to the incident. Your employer will then make arrangements for your treatment.  If the injury is severe or life-threatening, make the written notification as soon as possible after you receive treatment.

Giving your employer timely notice protects your claim. Your benefits should be automatic, but your employer has to know about the injury to start the claim process. Report all injuries as soon as they happen, even if the injury doesn’t appear to be serious.

The next step (or first, in the case of emergencies) is to get treatment for your injury. After you tell your employer about the injury, they may choose to make the arrangements themselves.  You’ll be required to use a doctor they’ve authorized. However, you can request authorization for your regular, but they are not obligated to permit your request.

If you choose to make arrangements for medical treatment without notifying your employer, the insurance company may not cover your treatment.  Always confirm any treatment plans with the workers’ compensation insurer to make sure you receive all of the benefits.

There is an exception to the insurer’s ability to deny payment for treatment.  If you notified your employer of the injury and requested medical treatment but your employer did not respond within two days, you will be covered. Despite receiving “unauthorized” medical treatment, you did your best to work with the employer, but they did not follow through on their end.

What are the Benefits of Workers’ Compensation?

Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law covers three types of benefits:

  • Medical treatment
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Cash payments

These benefits should be paid as a matter of course if the workers’ compensation claim is successful. If your employer is not upholding your claim, please contact WALKER & HARP. Our expert attorneys will help get you the assistance you need during this difficult time.

Medical Benefits

Medical benefits include all medical treatment of your workplace injury, from doctor bills and hospital stays to medical equipment. For workers’ compensation treatments, you shouldn’t have any out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles.  All payments for medical treatment of workers’ compensation injuries should be made by the employer or insurance company directly to the provider.

Rehabilitation Services

Rehabilitation services can include medical services, like physical therapy. However, thy also include vocational and occupational rehabilitation if you are disabled as a result of the injury. The severity of the injury will determine what rehabilitation services are covered.

Cash Payments

If you are disabled as a result of the injury, you are entitled to cash payments. For a temporary disability that keeps you from working for some time, you’ll receive cash payments to cover your lost wages while you recover. For a permanent physical impairment, such as amputation or loss of use, you’ll receive permanent partial disability benefits. If the impairment impacts your wages, you could be eligible for wage loss payments as well.

What Happens After Recovery?

Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law protects you from discrimination or termination as a result of your workers’ compensation case. That said, your employer is not required to hold your job for you while you are out of the office on disability as a result of your workplace injury. That said, your employer cannot refuse you to return to work if the doctor gives you medical clearance. If your employer tells you to stay home, you may be entitled to compensation for up to a year.  WALKER & HARP can help you work with your employer for your transition back to work.

How are Temporary or Permanent Disabilities Covered?

Disability benefits are payable if your disability lasts 14 days after the incident, starting the day after the incident.  If the impairment lasts fewer than 14 days, disability benefits are payable after the first seven days.

If you receive benefits for temporary disability, you’ll receive two-thirds of your average weekly income, up to a state-mandated maximum. Contact your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer to find out your payment rate. Payments are typically made every two weeks, starting two weeks after the injury, but only if you reported it immediately.

If your injury results in permanent partial disability, the amount of your cash benefit will be based on a formula devised by the Arkansas Legislature. Each part of the body has been assigned a value that corresponds to the number of weeks of compensation to be paid. That number is multiplied by the anatomical impairment rating your doctor assigned to your disability. The final number is used to determine the number of weeks you’ll receive cash benefit payments.

If your injury results in permanent and total disability, you will receive benefits for the rest of your life. The workers’ compensation insurer is mandated to process these payments.  If you have any problems with your permanent disability benefits payments, contact Walker & Hope to manage any potential disputes.

What does Workers’ Compensation Cover If the Workplace Injury Results in Death?

Death benefits are available if the workplace injury results in death, either at the time of the injury or after a period of disability. Under Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law, death benefits include funeral benefits and weekly payments that represent wage loss. These payments are calculated as a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage.

The employee’s survivors will receive death benefits. In Arkansas, dependent survivors can include the surviving spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren.  As dependent children and grandchildren age out of their dependent status, the benefits payments will be divided among the remaining dependent survivors.

How are Workers’ Compensation Disputes Handled?

You do not have to settle for the compensation you receive. If there are problems with your workers’ compensation claim or you want to dispute the benefits you won, you must file a claim within two years of the injury or within one year of the last day you received a compensation payment. If you have questions about your workers’ compensation benefits and want help with this process, contact WALKER & HARP.

Our team of workers’ compensation experts will help you determine whether or not you should file a claim and will help you navigate the process. Under Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law, attorney fees are generally payable only if you receive compensation as a result of the dispute.  The attorney fees are split between your employer or the insurer and you.

Call WALKER & HARP at 479-783-5000 to learn more about starting a workers’ compensation claim.

OUR OFFICE

Fort Smith Office

400 North 6th Street
P.O. Box 998
Fort Smith, Arkansas 72902-0998

Phone: 479-783-5000
Fax: 479-783-0420

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