The following guide is provided for quick reference and basic understanding of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation system. This guide is not comprehensive and cannot address all issues of the system. Only a detailed consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can address all of your concerns. For more information, contact Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law by calling 479-439-1843 or contact us online.
General Information About the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation System
|Role of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission (AWCC)||The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission is the state government organization that enforces the workers’ compensation rules in Arkansas. If your claim proceeds routinely, your interaction with the AWCC will be, at most, minimal.|
|Your cost||Workers’ compensation should be available to most employees. Your coverage is paid by your employer at no cost to you.|
|Worker coverage||Almost all workers in Arkansas are covered because most for-profit business entities consisting of 3 or more employees are covered. Exceptions to coverage include those employed in domestic help, agricultural farm laborers, and Arkansans employed by non-profit, religious, charitable or relief organizations. Railroad workers, maritime workers, and dock workers are not generally covered by Arkansas’ workers’ compensation program but by federal programs.|
|Coverage effective date||Your coverage begins the moment you start your employment and continues throughout.|
|Covered injuries||Accidental injuries which arise out of, and in the course of employment, cause internal or external harm to the body, are caused by a specific incident and are identifiable by time and place of occurrence. Repetitive motion injuries, gradual on-set back injuries, and hearing loss are exceptions to the general rule.|
Types of Disability Determinations
|Temporary total disability (TTD)||When an injury or injuries cause a complete disability that is not expected to be permanent, a designation of TTD may be issued. The maximum time for TTD is 450 weeks. Compensation at 66 and two-thirds percent of gross average weekly wage. State Maximum: $617/wk, Minimum: $20/wk.|
|Temporary partial disability (TPD)||When an injury or injuries cause only partial disability that is not expected to be permanent, a designation of TPD may be issued. This may mean receiving the benefits you receive for TTD, but reduced to pay only for the part that is disabled.|
|Permanent partial disability (PPD)||Permanent partial disability occurs when your injuries or condition results in only a partial disability, but that condition is not expected to improve. PPD injuries are scheduled for every body part excluding the back, neck and shoulders which are whole body injuries based on 450 weeks. The impairment percentage is multiplied by the total number of weeks corresponding to the rated body part. See §11-9-521 for schedule. State maximum: $463/wk, Minimum $20/wk.|
|Permanent total disability (PTD)||When disability is all-encompassing and not expected to improve a determination of PTD may be made. Caps on PTD benefits are described in the following section.|
|Death ||Death benefits are available and up to $6,000 may be paid for funeral expenses. The amount of death benefits are computed as per AR Code §11-9-527. Death benefits are subject to the PTD cap as listed above.|
Beginning Your Workers’ Compensation Claim in Arkansas
|Starting your workers’ compensation claim||The worker must report the injury to his or her employer. The employer will then typically complete and submit AWCC Form 1– Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness.|
|Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations||Your claim must be filed within 2 years of the injury date.|
|Claims challengeable? ||Your employer may challenge or controvert your claim. Your employer must file its reply within 15 days by filing AWCC Form 2 – Employer’s Intent to Accept or Controvert Claim.|
|Formal claims available?||If you need to open a formal claim with the AWCC, as per ACA § 11-9-702, you or your attorney should file AWCC Form C – Claim for Compensation.|
|Expected waiting period for a hearing||30 to 60 days for your hearing. An administrative law judge (ALJ) must issue a decision within 90 days of the hearing date.|
Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Arkansas
|Types of benefits||The workers’ compensation system may provide compensation for medical expenses; like hospital bills, rehabilitative expenses; like physical therapy, and compensation for lost wages.|
|Preapproval?||Yes. You should always have medical services pre-approved or risk non-payment.|
|Emergency treatment?||If the situation is a true emergency, seek emergency medical care that your employer or insurer may be required to cover.|
|Initial choice of doctor||At the outset, your employer will have the choice of the treating physician. The physician will report on your medical condition by filing AWCC Form 3 — Physician’s Report.|
|Change of treating physician ||Yes, you may change your treating physician however there is a set procedure for doing so. One should be extremely careful and work within the system for the change while complying with all instructions.|
|Procedure for change of doctor||A claimant may request to change their treating doctor by contacting the AWCC. However, you may only change your doctor once. If the employer is associated with a managed care organization (MCO), the doctor you select must be associated with the MCO or be your regular treating doctor. If the employer is not part of a MCO network, then the claimant may select a doctor associated with any certified MCO.|
|Benefit payment methods|| “Compensation shall be paid by check, by electronic funds transfer, or by state warrant.” Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-801. Payment may be made by means of an electronic system if:|
- Payment can be obtained immediately and in the full amount due.
- The method is “easily and readily” accessible to the claimant.
- No unreasonable burdens or inconveniences are placed on the method of payment.
- The employee can opt-in or opt-out of the use of the electronic payment.
If a fee will be charged to a claimant that method may not be implemented.
|Benefit caps||For claims prior to 1/1/2008 PTD benefits were capped at $75,000. Furthermore, benefits paid for PPD would also count against that cap. However, the benefits are now adjusted yearly based on when the injury occurred:|
- For claims where the injury occurred on or following 01/01/08 PTD benefits up to $169,650 may be paid.
- For claims where the injury occurred on or following 01/01/09 PTD benefits up to $178,750 may be paid.
- For claims where the injury occurred on or following 01/01/10 PTD benefits up to $ $182,650 may be paid.
- For claims where the injury occurred on or following 01/01/11 PTD benefits up to $186,875 may be paid.
- For claims where the injury occurred on or following 01/01/12 PTD benefits up to $189,800 may be paid.
- For claims where the injury occurred on or following 01/01/13 PTD benefits up to $195,650 may be paid.
- For claims where the injury occurred on or following 01/01/14 PTD benefits up to $200,525 may be paid.
|Settlement||Settlement is permitted and handled through a formal hearing before an ALJ.|
Glossary of Common Workers’ Compensation Terms
|AR Code||Arkansas Code|
|AWCC||Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission|
|Claim||A request for benefits due to a disability.|
|Controvert|| In a workers’ compensation claims context, controvert means that your employer is denying liability for your workers’ compensation benefits.|
|CoP||Change of physician|
|DEN||Date Employer Notified|
|DoD||Date of Disability|
|DoI||Date of Injury|
|EE||The claimant who is applying for benefits or employEE.|
|FEIN||Federal Employer Identification number|
|IR||The insurance agent or adjuster|
|Major cause||50% or more of the reason for the injury or condition|
|MCO||Managed care organization|
|TPA||Third party administrator|