The purpose of an Arkansas workers’ compensation claim is to ensure that employees who become injured on the job can be reimbursed for those injuries, without having to resort to the courts.
The way the system works is that the injured employee receives compensation for the work-related injuries and agrees not to file a legal action against the employer.
The employee is not required to prove negligence or liability in order to be compensated for his injuries; making it essentially a no-fault system.
But, what happens if you file a lawsuit anyway?
Overview of Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Laws
The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission (AWCC) requires employers to provide coverage if the employer has three or more employees.
In some cases, employers with less than three employees must provide coverage at no cost to the employee. Employers are not required to provide coverage for agricultural farm workers or domestic help. Non-profits, charitable, religious, and relief organizations are not required to carry coverage.
If you get hurt on the job in Arkansas, your coverage pays all of your medical bills and a portion of your lost wages. You must report any on-the-job injury to your employer immediately, and you must see the doctor or medical provider specified by your employer. State-specific limits determine the amount of compensation you receive for temporary disability as well as permanent partial or permanent total disability.
Although you must notify your employer immediately after a work-related injury, you have two years from the date of injury to file a claim. If you have a recurrence of a prior injury, you have one year from the date of your last compensation payment to file a claim.
You can check to see if your employer has current coverage using the AWCC online coverage verification service.
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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.
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 the workers’ compensation laws.
An employer who violates this provision can face a fine of up to $10,000 and found guilty of a felony. 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
Contact Our Arkansas Workers’ Comp Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you have questions regarding worker’s compensation benefits, retaliation or any other workers’ compensation issues in Arkansas, please contact the Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys at the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation, either online or by calling toll-free at 800-364-8305.