Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Truck Drivers
There are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers who drive more than 400 billion miles on the road each year. According to The Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is about as fast as the average of all occupations. Despite the positive outlook for the field, being a truck driver is a tough occupation. Truck drivers, particularly long-haul drivers, spend countless hours on the road and away from their families. Truck drivers deal with the threat of poor road conditions, accidents, fatigue, and injury. Truckers must also be concerned with repetitive stress injuries and delayed-onset back and neck injuries. In short, there are multiple ways a trucker can suffer an injury causing partial or full disability. But what happens if you are injured while you are driving?
If you are suffering from an injury or nagging condition that has made full-time work impossible, you may qualify for worker’s compensation benefits. These benefits are often awarded routinely, but misunderstandings regarding the system, an independent medical examination that goes badly, and other factors can seriously impact your eligibility. If you have a legitimate claim but are facing pushback from the Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Commission (AWCC) or your employer contact Ken Kieklak at Gunn, Kieklak, & Dennis LLP at (479) 316-0438. He is a worker’s comp lawyer who can fight for you
Arkansas Workers’ Compensation System
Arkansas has established the Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Commission (AWCC) to oversee the worker’s compensation process and has a well-established regimen to determine if an injured employee is entitled to receive benefits. Navigating though the complex process allows for hard-working individuals to temporarily or permanently receive compensation due to a serious injury or condition. Essentially, the system works as a safety net for long-haul drivers, short-haul truck drivers, delivery drivers, and other employees in the state. Since Arkansas’ Workers’ Compensation laws require most employers with three or more employees to carry insurance of this type or to be self-insured, most workers are covered. Truckers who use the Workers’ Compensation system are often dedicated workers who often agonize over their decision to go on disability. But, in many cases, such action is the most likely the only means for them to continue to provide for themselves and for their families.
What is the Process for a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Arkansas?
Once a worker has reported their injury to their employer the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation code provides how a Workers’ Compensation claim must proceed. The process includes the following steps:
- Notice: Within ten days after a claim for compensation has been filed by an injured worker, the Workers’ Compensation Commission will notify the employer of the filing of the claim.
- Investigation and Hearing: After notice has been provided The Workers’ Compensation Commission will order an investigation and a hearing.
- At the hearing: Both the injured worker and the employer may present evidence supporting their claim and an attorney may represent each side.
- Order: After the hearing, an order denying the claim or making an award will be filed in the office of the commission, and a copy shall be sent by registered mail to both the worker and the employer or to their attorneys.
Not only can this process be overwhelming and complicated, but also failing to prove your injury during the hearing can be detrimental to you receiving Workers’ Compensation. Contacting an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney increases your chances of succeeding in front of the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
What Benefits are Available?
Workers Compensation Benefits
The law generally provides three kinds of Workers’ Compensation benefits in Arkansas:
- Medical care to treat the injury – This includes not only doctor bills, but also includes coverage for medication, hospital costs, x-rays, and costs for lab tests. The coverage extends to costs for all reasonably necessary services and is paid directly to the provider by the employer’s insurance company or the self-insured employer. Generally, the employee does not have to pay a deductible.
- Rehabilitation services – This may be an extension of medical treatment and generally includes physical therapy. If your injury results in permanent disability, you may qualify for additional services such as vocational rehabilitation.
- Cash payments – Cash payments are by far the most common benefit that injured workers receive. These payments are often made during the healing process while the employee is unable to work. However, if the injury results in a permanent impairment, such as the amputation of a leg, an injured worker may be paid permanent partial disability benefits after being released to return to work. An injured worker may also be entitled to wage loss if their impairment affects their pre-injury wages. If the injury resulted in death, payments may be made to surviving dependents.
While cash benefits may be the most common form of Workers’ Compensation benefit, they come in different forms depending on the type of the injury and the extent the injury has on the worker. If you are thinking of filing a workers compensation claim there are some important things for you to understand about the types of wage benefits a trucker may be entitled to receive.
The amount of wage compensation you may receive is based not only on your salary but also on your level of disability. The levels of disability and accompanying wage benefits are as follows:
- Temporary total disability (TTD) – Injuries that are believed to be recoverable from but nonetheless severe and 100% debilitating. Temporary total disability is capped at 450 weeks and 66.6% of the gross average weekly wage. It is also subject to state maximum payments.
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) – An injury or disability that is not complete and expected to resolve. This category is also subject to a 450-week cap
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) – Permanent partial disabilities will not improve and do not result in 100% disability. There is a schedule set forth in §11-9-521 detailing the payments for each affected body part.
- Permanent total disability (PTD) – Permanent total disability is the most serious level as the condition will not improve and is a 100% disability. Permanent total disability claims filed on or after 1/1/2008 are subject to benefits caps that are adjusted annually.
For a more detailed understanding of the exact benefits, a truck driver can expect to receive from a worker’s compensation claim, you can consult our Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Guide or contact an experienced worker’s comp attorney in Arkansas.
Steps Truckers Must Take to Receive Disability Benefits in Arkansas
Getting benefits under Arkansas’ worker’s compensation system can range from a relatively straightforward process to one that is complex and requires many hearings and administrative proceedings. However, all benefits claims begin with an injury to the worker that must be reported. The trucker then attends a medical examination by a doctor of the employer’s choosing. Steps that a trucker takes that makes it more likely that he or she will not face delays or disruptions in obtaining benefits include:
- Keeping all scheduled appointments with doctors or any agent of the AWCC.
- Completing all subsequent AWCC or employer requests for information in a timely and expeditious manner.
- Reporting any and all earning obtained after the injury report to the AWCC.
- Getting pre-approval before seeking any medical treatment.
- If you wish to change your doctor, you must comply with all required processes and procedures.
- Keeping copy of any records or materials obtained as a result of the worker’s compensation claim.
The above only accounts for the basics a trucker or other injured worker should account for and comply with when interacting with the AWCC. The process an injured worker may go through while attempting to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits might be more complex and drawn-out. For a more detailed understanding of the exact benefits and levels of wage compensation a truck driver can expect to receive from his or her worker’s compensation claim, you can consult our Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Guide or contact an experienced worker’s comp attorney in Arkansas.
Injuries Truckers Face in the Workplace
Truckers always face the danger of having an accident on the highway or on any of the other roads they may cover while driving. Unfortunately, sometimes these accidents result in serious injury. However, accidents while driving aren’t the only workplace injury risk truckers face. Long hours of driving, and loading and unloading heavy cargo can result in repetitive stress injuries and delayed-onset back and neck injuries. There is an array of ways a can suffer an injury. Consider some of these on-the-job risks truck drivers face:
- Loading and unloading cargo
- Slips, falls and strains from entering and exiting cabs
- Repetitive body stress over extended time periods
- Falls from loading docks
- Raising heavy truck hoods
- Handling heavy trucking equipment (such as removing the fifth wheel pin)
- Traffic accidents
Any of these may lead to internal or external harm to the body and result in the trucker not being able to work.
Injuries from Loading and Unloading
Most people know the dangers that truck drivers face when driving, but many people are unaware of the dangers truckers face when loading and unloading cargo. Loading and unloading materials, goods, and products from trucks are daily activities for a truck driver, and these activities are also a regular and frequent source of workplace injuries and fatalities. Unfortunately, while unloading a pallet from the back of a truck, a pulled back or strained shoulder is all too common.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that truckers can experience a wide array of injuries while loading or unloading cargo from their truck. Some of the most common injuries that may entitle you to receive workers compensation disability benefits include:
- Back Injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
- Fractured and broken bones
- Severe strains and sprains
- Head injuries
- Muscle soreness
- Becoming stuck under falling objects
- Injury from sharp objects
- Contact with harmful substances
Repetitive Stress Injuries
Work-related injuries don’t always happen suddenly, but can result from the stress of years of driving as a commercial truck driver. After driving long hours and millions of miles on the road you may find you are suffering from a repetitive stress injury. To qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits, you must prove the following facts:
- First, you must show that you were injured during the course of your employment and that you were working at the time of the injury.
- Second, you must show that your injury happened because of work. You must show that working directly caused your injury or that working aggravated a pre-existing condition. Repetitive stress motion injuries may constitute as the type of injury that you may recover Workers’ Compensation benefits for.
- Third, you must show that you sustained a loss because of your injury. This means that you must have sustained a permanent loss of functions require medical treatment, or suffered a wage loss because of the injury you suffered on the job.
Proving these elements for a repetitive stress injury can be a difficult process, particularly if you cannot point to a specific date of your injury, but rather your injury resulted from years of driving long hours as a commercial truck driver. Having an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney who understands the process and who knows how to obtain all the necessary documents increases your chance of receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits as soon as possible.
Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Can Help
If you or someone you love was hurt at work and you’re interested in applying for compensation, an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney can help facilitate the process and strengthen your claim for coverage. To schedule your private consultation, call the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak at (479) 316-0438, or contact us online. The state of Arkansas imposes strict limits on how long you have to file a claim, so don’t wait until it’s too late: get in touch today to start exploring your legal options.