Getting hurt on the job can create a cascade of problems. You may face medical bills, lost wages, and even have your job security threatened.
Arkansas employers owe their employees several legal obligations, including providing compensation when a worker gets hurt on the job.
At Cottrell Law Office, we help injured Arkansas workers. We have decades of experience fighting for the rights of accident victims.
Our experienced Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyers can discuss your accident injury and legal options during your free consultation.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, employers with three or more employees must subscribe to a workers’ compensation program.
This insurance will pay medical bills and wage replacement benefits for injured employees.
Workers’ comp also provides retraining for employees who can’t work in their same job after an accident.
Arkansas enacted a workers’ compensation requirement to protect both employers and employees.
You usually can’t sue an employer that carries workers’ compensation insurance, so having insurance spares the company a costly lawsuit.
The types of compensation an employee can seek are also limited. For example, you can’t sue for pain and suffering damages.
From the employee’s side, workman’s comp in Arkansas gives confidence that the employee will have basic expenses paid in the event of an injury at work, regardless of fault.
Even if the accident resulted from the employee’s own negligence, they can receive compensation.
However, this straightforward compensation program sometimes presents obstacles.
For instance, your employer could try to avoid paying workers’ compensation by claiming that you had a preexisting injury or that you weren’t acting in the scope of your employment at the time of the accident.
They might even try to make you return to work, threaten to fire you or take other unethical action.
If you face unfair treatment after an injury at work, you need a workers’ comp lawyer.
Workers’ Comp Versus a Personal Injury Claim
When you are injured at work, you have two primary strategies for recovering compensation.
You either file for workers’ compensation or file a personal injury lawsuit.
So, what’s the difference between these two options?
Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas
Arkansas workman’s compensation is a no-fault system.
This means that even if you were the person who caused your workplace accident, you can still file a workplace injury claim.
However, your injury must have occurred while you were on the job.
There are some exceptions to this no-fault policy, such as if you were using drugs or alcohol or doing something illegal.
Here are some other unique features of workers’ compensation in Arkansas:
- You can receive a portion of your wages (usually two-thirds of your average wage) and payment for medical bills;
- Your employer has the right to choose your physicians and healthcare providers for the entire course of your treatment;
- Workers’ compensation does not offer damages for pain and suffering;
- Workers’ compensation for a temporary disability lasts only for a limited time;
- When your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, you usually cannot file a personal injury lawsuit; and
- Injured employees can often get workers’ compensation payments quickly.
- While workers’ compensation has both positives and negatives, this compensation system provides security for employees across Arkansas who face dangers at work.
While workers’ compensation has both positives and negatives, this compensation system provides security for employees across Arkansas who face dangers at work.
Personal Injury in Arkansas
If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance or if your injury was caused by a third party, like a manufacturer, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.
Through a personal injury lawsuit, you can receive full compensation for lost wages and medical bills. These expenses are not capped at two-thirds of your salary.
You can also recover for emotional damages like pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages.
These damages can amount to a significant sum, often much higher than that available through workers’ compensation.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits in Arkansas
Workers’ Compensation coverage is paid by your employer at no cost to you. However, it is your responsibility to report any work-related accidents or injuries to your employer as soon as it happens.
AR workers’ compensation coverage pays for the reasonably necessary medical care you receive as a result of a work-related illness or injury.
Your employer or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier has the right to select which doctor will provide your medical treatment.
Workers’ compensation benefits may also replace a portion of your lost wages if your doctor says you need to be off work for a certain period of time because of a work-related illness or injury.
How to Obtain Medical Care and Benefits Through Workers’ Compensation
In order to begin receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits, your employer must first report the injury or illness to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
This is typically done by submitting a “First Report of Injury or Illness.”
Then you will go see the doctor chosen by your employer or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier for the necessary treatment.
It is important to do everything your employer requests and be cooperative.
Otherwise, your benefits could be stopped or delayed. That means complete all AR workers’ compensation forms timely, keep all of your doctor’s appointments. You should obtain approval from the carrier before actually receiving treatment.
If you are not satisfied with the doctor they tell you to see, you can ask them to approve another doctor.
Types of Medical Benefits You Can Receive
Under Arkansas Workers’ Compensation law, insurance will typically pay for all reasonably necessary medical care related to your on-the-job injury or illness.
This includes visits to an approved health care provider, necessary surgeries, hospital care, physical therapy, prescription drugs, braces, and crutches or other medical supplies, as long as they are ordered by your approved physician.
You are not responsible for the medical bills as long as the workers’ compensation carrier approves the doctor you are seeing. So make sure you have that approval before obtaining treatment.
Otherwise, if you see a doctor without the carrier’s approval, you may be legally responsible for the expenses you incur.
As long as your treatment is approved, the doctor will either bill the insurance carrier directly or you can send the bill to your employer or the carrier.
Payment for Lost Wages under Arkansas Worker’s Compensation
In cases where you miss work because of a work-related injury or illness, you may be entitled to receive cash benefits, often referred to as indemnity benefits.
However, the waiting period for these benefits is seven (7) calendar days and will only be awarded at the direction of your approved doctor.
These payments for lost wages are meant to help you through the period of time you are disabled from your workplace injury or illness.
Your coverage will begin on the eighth day of partial or total disability and you will be compensated for the first seven (7) days only if you are disabled for more than fourteen (14) days.
Types of Workers’ Compensation Payments
When you suffer a workplace injury, your wage replacement benefits depend on which of four classifications you fall into:
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) means that your physical abilities are limited and you may not be able to perform all your job duties;
- Temporary total disability (TTD) means that you cannot work while you recover from your injury, but doctors expect you to be able to return to work someday;
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) means that you have a permanent physical disability that is not expected to improve with medical treatment, but you may be able to work in some role; and
- Permanent total disability (PTD) means that you are permanently disabled and unable to work.
Each of these categories carries limitations on how long you can continue to receive payments. The more life-altering your injury, the longer you are eligible for workers’ compensation.
These disability benefits also depend on your average weekly wage.
Your average weekly wage is normally your full-time wages at the time of your injury, but there are exceptions for atypical working situations.
In exceptional circumstances, the Workers’ Compensation Commission can compute your average weekly wage in any way that is just and fair.
You should identify exceptional circumstances of your work for proper compensation in your case.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Generally, you have two years from the date of injury to request workers’ compensation benefits, but you must report your injury to your employer immediately.
If you do not receive medical treatment or disability payments within two years of filing, your claim may be barred. You may also have only one year to request additional compensation in your claim.
Your access to benefits can close fast, and a work injury is time-consuming. You have medical appointments and you have to confront financial setbacks.
Your injury may also limit you. Workers’ comp lawyers in Arkansas can handle your claim’s many deadlines while you take the necessary time to recover.
What If I Disagree with My Workers’ Compensation Doctors?
Arkansas workman’s compensation may offer no-fault access to medical care, but this access has drawbacks.
Your employer has the right to choose your healthcare providers.
Your healthcare providers have a large impact on your benefits, including your permanent disability rating and how quickly you must return to work.
Unfortunately, you will likely have far less control over your medical care under workers’ compensation than you would if you used personal insurance.
But Arkansas law does provide some procedures to contest the decisions of your workers’ comp provider.
Requesting a Change of Physician
You may ask to change your employer-selected doctor only once. You do not automatically receive a new doctor, and you may have to attend a hearing to change doctors.
You must pay for any non-emergency medical care from a doctor outside of your employer’s selection or a Workers’ Compensation Commission selection.
If you cannot change your doctor, you still have options to dispute their medical opinion.
Requesting a Second Opinion
Sometimes your doctor does not fully understand your new limitations since an injury. Sometimes a doctor makes a mistake in a diagnosis or prognosis.
You should not passively accept your doctor’s misunderstanding or mistake, even if you cannot change doctors in your claim.
Your doctor determines your level of impairment (“impairment rating”) after your condition plateaus.
Your impairment rating directly affects your permanent partial disability benefits, and you can request an independent medical examination to dispute your rating.
Generally, you must prove the reasonableness and necessity of an independent examination to the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Proving your entitlement to a change of physician or an independent examination can be complicated.
Attorney Wesley Cottrell is an experienced Rogers workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you access appropriate medical care.
Protection Against Workers’ Compensation Retaliation
In Arkansas, if an employer retaliates against an injured employee, it is considered a felony.
More specifically, under Arkansas workmans’ comp law, it is illegal for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee for filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits or otherwise exercising his or her rights under Arkansas’s workers’ compensation laws.
An employer who violates this provision can face a fine of up to $10,000 and found guilty of a felony.
Source: Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-107.
Retaliation can Include More than Just Termination
Illegal discrimination or retaliation for exercising workers’ compensation rights includes more than just termination.
For example, the following types of employment actions can also be illegal if it is determined that the employer was motivated by an employee exercising his or her rights:
- Poor performance review
- Failure to promote
- Reduction of wages
- Intimidation in the workplace
- Threats of adverse action
- Negative reassignment, reclassification or transfer
- Unreasonable increase or decrease in job duties
- Unwarranted disciplinary action
How Can an Arkansas Workers’ Comp Attorney Help?
A skilled Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine the payment you should receive for your injuries.
If your employer unfairly denies your claim, your attorney will apply legal pressure to get you fair payment.
A lawyer can also evaluate the circumstances of your accident to determine if there is potential for a third-party lawsuit.
If so, your attorney can help you file a personal injury lawsuit that might give you significantly more compensation.
Without workers’ comp lawyers in Arkansas to advocate for you, it’s just you against your employer. This imbalance of power is not likely to result in a favorable outcome for you.
Hiring an attorney helps make things fairer and ensures that your perspective is considered.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Arkansas Workers’ Comp Lawyer to Learn More
Attorney Wesley Cottrell has been helping accident victims for 32 years.
Here are a few more things you should know about the Cottrell Law Office:
- We want to lessen your stress by fighting for the compensation you need;
- Our law office handles paperwork and negotiations so that you can focus on recuperating from your injuries;
- Our goal is always to achieve an outcome that provides just compensation for you and your family;
- We offer zealous legal representation and personalized service;
- We communicate with clients frequently; and
- We get to know each client so that we can advocate for their needs.
Ask us any questions at the consultation, and get to know Wes so that you can trust him to handle your case with care.
If you decide to hire us, you pay nothing unless we win your case.
Contact the Cottrell Law Office today to get started on your fight for just compensation.