Fayetteville, AR Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Most people who are injured at work in Fayetteville, Arkansas are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. This is true regardless of what caused the employee’s injury to occur. However, the Fayetteville Workers’ Compensation process can be confusing and difficult to navigate, especially while you are in recovery from a debilitating injury. Hiring an experienced Fayetteville AR Workers’ Compensation attorney increases your chances of receiving full benefits.
Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law has nearly 20 years of experience working with employers and their insurance companies to aggressively negotiate and litigate Workers’ Compensation claims in Fayetteville. Ken Kieklak will work to protect your rights and doesn’t get paid unless you do. To talk about your workplace injury claim in a free legal consultation with Ken Kieklak, call our law offices right away at (479) 316-0438.
What Types of Employees Are Covered By Workers’ Compensation?
The Workers’ Compensation program is enforced and administered by the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission (AWCC). The AWCC states that nearly every worker in Fayetteville has Workers’ Compensation insurance, because businesses with three or more employees must carry insurance or be approved for self-insurance.
While the vast majority of employees are covered, certain types of workers are not covered by the program, because they receive Workers’ Compensation through the United States government or other sources instead. Types of workers who are not covered include:
- Agricultural Workers
- Domestic Help
- Employees of Charitable Organizations
- Employees of Religious Organizations
- Farm Laborers
- Maritime Workers
- Railroad Workers
Regardless of your occupation, you are encouraged to contact Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law for a free consultation regarding your claim if you sustained a workplace injury in Fayetteville, AR. Even if you are a railroad or maritime worker, it may be possible to help you pursue benefits though other paths.
Common Causes of Work Injuries in Fayetteville, AR
Suffering an injury at the workplace is something nobody expects to happen. However, accidents do occur, and many times they can cause severe injuries. The extent of injuries suffered at the workplace often depends on the nature of the work performed. For instance, people working at construction sites are at a higher risk of suffering life-threatening injuries than those working at an office. However, this does not mean that accidents can’t happen at safer job sites. Every accident that occurs at the workplace must be taken seriously. Some of the most common causes of job-related injuries include:
Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are among one of the leading causes of accidents at the workplace. Every year, thousands of workers face debilitating injuries caused by slips and falls. These injuries may not sound severe compared to other types of accidents. However, depending on the nature of your fall, you may suffer injuries such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal cord injuries (SCI), broken bones, and other debilitating conditions. Fortunately, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries. Our workers’ comp attorneys can help you throughout your claim.
Lifting Heavy Objects
Lifting heavy objects is another leading cause of workplace injuries. Many jobs require lifting objects such as boxes, office equipment, or heavy tools. People may suffer from overexertion injuries by lifting heavy objects over time. Many who work at places such as warehouses and construction sites suffer from painful, debilitating injuries such as herniated discs. This type of injury is capable of preventing an injured worker from returning to work. It is easy to feel hopeless after such an injury. That is why our Fayetteville workman’s comp attorneys can help you obtain compensation by helping you with your Workers’ Compensation claim.
Falling from a Height
Falling from a height can be extremely dangerous, especially for those working in the construction industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading causes of death among construction workers in the United States. Furthermore, according to the CDC, more than 300 workers die at the workplace each year and more than 10,000 are injured in accidents caused by falling from a height. The Workers’ Compensation system may be able to provide you with the financial support you need to get back on your feet.
How Do You Qualify for Workers’ Comp. Benefits In Fayetteville, AR?
Work-related injuries can happen suddenly when you least expect it. You are then left unable to work and earn income – yet your medical bills, utility bills, mortgage payments, and other expenses continue to keep piling up. What can an injured worker do to support themselves and their loved ones in this stressful situation? Fortunately, Workers’ Compensation is available for most individuals.
The Workers’ Compensation system works as insurance offering coverage to workers who are injured at the workplace. Workman’s comp can also help cover employees who develop a condition related to their job. If you were injured or developed an occupational disease, a workers’ comp policy can offer assistance while you are unable to return to work. However, the compensation provided by this system is not authorized automatically. All injured workers who wish to obtain the benefits offered by the system must go through a qualifying process.
Every worker must meet specific requirements set forth by the worker’s compensation system. For instance, you need to be a direct employee of the company you work for. There is an essential distinction between full-time employees and independent contractors. Independent contractors are generally exempted from obtaining the benefits offered by the workman’s comp. However, full-time employees who are on their employer’s payroll and whose taxes are automatically withheld are covered under the system.
The law requires every employer to offer workman’s comp coverage to their employees. It only makes sense to obtain assistance from the worker’s comp system if your employer provides it. However, there may be instances where an employer refuses to offer these benefits. In such a situation, there are alternatives you may want to explore to get the compensation you need following a job-related injury.
Your injury or condition must be intrinsically related to your duties at the workplace. Any injury or disease outside the realm of your employment will not be covered under workman’s comp. Finally, you will need to comply with all reporting deadlines. All injured workers have a limited time to report their accident to their employer and start the compensation process. Generally, an employee has up to 30 days from the moment of the accident to notify their employer. Your notification has to include a written statement related to your injury, such as the day, time, place, and extent of your injury. Our Fayetteville workers’ comp attorneys can help you through the entirety of your claim.
However, there are some situations where Workers’ Compensation benefits are not awarded to workplace injury victims. In order to qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits in Fayetteville, AR, you must be able to prove the following facts:
- First, you must show that you were injured in the course of your employment and were working at the time of the injury.
- Second, you must prove that your injury was directly caused by working, or that working aggravated a pre-existing condition. Importantly, the mere fact that you were at your place of work when the injury occurred is insufficient to receive Workers’ Compensation. For instance, you would not be entitled to Workers’ Compensation if you became injured while dropping by the office to greet a coworker or grab a personal item during one of your days off. Rather, your job must have caused or contributed to the injury.
- Third, you must be able to show that you sustained an actual loss as a result of your injuries. This means you must have sustained a wage loss, a loss of function, or that you require medical treatment for the injury you suffered on the job.
Common Reasons Workers’ Compensation Claims Can Be Denied
Not only can proving the aforementioned facts be difficult – but there are also scenarios in which Workers’ Compensation will be outright denied. For example, you will not be able to file a claim for Workers’ Compensation successfully if:
- You lie about or exaggerate the nature or severity of your injury.
- Your injury was intentionally self-inflicted, which is a form of fraud.
- Your injury was caused by drug use or alcohol use.
Administrative and procedural errors can also cause claims to be denied – for instance, failure to file a claim in a timely manner.
Furthermore, employers sometimes challenge their own employees, typically on the basis that the accident either (1) occurred outside of work, or (2) was not the true cause of the employee’s injury.
If you feel that your claim was denied unfairly, it may be possible to challenge the denial and obtain benefits by going through a process known as the “appeals” process. This process involves appearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), similar to the disability benefits appeals process. An experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney in Fayetteville can guide and represent you throughout the appeals process if your claim was initially denied.
Due to these many procedural pitfalls and regulatory intricacies, it can be surprisingly difficult to obtain the benefits you are rightfully entitled to. Therefore, contacting an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer who understands how to obtain the necessary documentation increases your chance of receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits promptly. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law can advise you on what employers look for when analyzing Workers’ Compensation claims.
How Do You Appeal A Denied Workers’ Compensation Claim in Fayetteville?
If your employer has denied your Workers’ Compensation claim, you must take the following steps to appeal the decision:
First, you must file a claim with the AWCC. After filing, the AWCC will notify your employer and begin an investigation.
Second, you must gather medical documents to prove your physical injuries, gather relevant paperwork to show your sustained wage loss, and find witnesses to confirm the incident and possibly vouch for your credibility.
Third, you must attend a hearing in front of the Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Court of Appeals. At this hearing, you will have the burden of proving the aforementioned elements by a preponderance of the evidence, which simply means that you will be responsible for providing evidence to show that your claim was unjustly denied. The phrase “preponderance of the evidence” means it is more likely than not that a claim is true. This standard of evidence is lower than the extremely rigorous standard used in criminal trials (“beyond a reasonable doubt”).
Because this process can be overwhelming and complicated, contacting an experienced workers’ comp lawyers in Fayetteville, AR increases your chances of success. Ken Kieklak can answer your questions, review your paperwork, and speak for you before review panels whose job is to assess your claim.
How Does the Workers’ Compensation Application Process Work?
In a best-case scenario, your employer will not dispute your claim, and, rather than needing to go through the appeals process, you will simply be approved to begin receiving benefits within weeks or even days of your accident. However, in order to reach this outcome, the injured worker must first take several steps.
While your employer will be responsible for a large share of the work, it is still important for employees to understand how the process of filing a claim for Workers’ Compensation works in Fayetteville. The process unfolds in the following steps:
Report your injury to your employer immediately. Seek medical care first, but make sure your employer is informed right away. You will be required to supply information about the time, date, and nature of your injury or injuries. Even the smallest injury should be reported. As the AWCC itself correctly points out, “Even a cut finger can be disabling if an infection develops.”
Once your employer has been notified of the injury, he or she should promptly report the accident to the company’s insurance carrier.
At this stage, you should receive documentation from your employer explaining your rights to medical treatment. Your employer is entitled to select your initial care provider, but if you are dissatisfied with your medical evaluation, you may contact the AWCC to formally request a Change of Physician.
While all approved treatment will be covered, seeking treatment without prior approval from your employer’s insurance can be a costly mistake. Therefore, you should always seek pre-approval for medical expenses and procedures. If you did not seek pre-approval and the insurance company is now denying your claim, Ken Kieklak can help.
Be sure to keep multiple copies of all medical documentation you receive, including records of emails and phone calls. Detailed medical records will prove vital should you need to appeal a Workers’ Compensation denial later.
Once your injuries and their effects on your functionality have been assessed, your claim should be approved, at which point benefits will start to be paid:
Within several weeks of the accident, if the injury produces a short-term disability (a disability lasting less than 14 days).
The day after the accident, if the injury produces a long-term disability (a disability lasting 14 days or more).
Remember: even if your claim is initially denied, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of options. In this situation, an attorney can assist you with the appeals process.
Fortunately for injured employees, the majority of Workers’ Compensation claims are processed routinely without ever involving the AWCC. This is because the routine handling of Workers’ Compensation claims is primarily done by the employer and the employer’s insurance company.
What Types of Benefits Can You Get From Workers’ Compensation?
The benefits received through Workers’ Compensation inevitably vary from person to person. However, depending on the circumstances, a Workers’ Compensation claimant has the possibility of obtaining the following benefits:
This includes an array of medical bills arising from your injuries, including:
- Casts, Braces, and Crutches
- Doctor Appointments
- Hospital Bills
- Lab Test Fees
- Medical Devices and Equipment
- X-Rays and CT Scans
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
If your injury requires you to take time off to heal, you are entitled to cash payments. The amount of TTD benefits is two thirds of your average weekly wage.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
PPD consists of payments for an anatomical impairment, such as the loss of a thumb or finger. The amount of these payments depends upon the body part impaired and how this impairment will impact your life. Even after you are cleared to return to work, you will continue to be paid PPD benefits.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
If your injury causes a major disability that leaves you completely and permanently unable to work, such as quadriplegia or tetraplegia, you are entitled to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits for the rest of your life.
Wage Loss Differential
If your injury leaves you unable to perform your current job, and you are forced to take a lower paying job, you are entitled to compensation for your decrease in pay. The amount of compensation is no more than two thirds of the difference between your current and former average, gross, weekly wage.
If a worker is killed on the job, his or her dependents may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.
What is a Specific Loss Claim?
Specific loss claims are filed by an injured worker who lost a limb or proper function on such limb due to an accident while performing his or her duties. This type of claim is designed to provide aid to the injured worker for things like lost wages and medical expenses. A specific loss claim must be filed after suffering a serious bodily injury and must follow certain rules and procedures set forth by the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission.
The coverage for an injured worker in a work-related accident will change depending on the extent of the damage. As an injured worker you should understand the differences between the following disability categories to understand which category of Workers’ Compensation they should receive:
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
TTD is the designation used to identify a work-related injury that will totally incapacitate a worker for a set period. In other words, if a worker suffers an injury that will affect him or her for a specified period, then they will be granted the TTD benefits. These benefits are comprised of two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
Different from TTD, TPD contemplates a partially disabling injury for a set period. While workers may receive benefits somewhat similar to TTD, the compensation is usually reduced to cover only the reduced function, as opposed to TTD’s coverage for total loss of function.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
PPD refers to a partial injury or reduced function in a body part that is not expected to improve over time. For workers’ comp purposes, all body parts except the back, neck, and shoulders qualify for PPD. The benefits an injured worker can receive for a PPD can range from $20 to $463 weekly.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
PTD benefits apply to severe occupational injury cases where the worker suffers a severe bodily injury that is not expected to improve over time. Benefits granted will depend on the date of the injury.
What is the Process for Filing a Specific Loss Workplace Injury Claim?
To file a worker’s compensation claim for specific loss, you need to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. Normally after reporting your injury, your employer will assign you a physician to assess your injury to determine whether you are safe to return to work. However, if your injury requires immediate medical treatment, your expenses for emergency treatment should be covered by workman’s comp.
After reporting your injury to your employer, they are supposed to file your worker’ compensation claim within ten days to start the process. Once your employer has filed your petition, it’s up to the system whether they grant the benefits or not.
Keep in mind, your employer may contest your claim, your workers’ comp may be denied, or you may lose your benefits altogether. For instance, if you are injured in the workplace, and refuse to follow all instructions given by your physician, they can use your noncompliance as a basis for denying your benefits. Also, make sure to follow up on your specific loss case.
There are set deadlines to file your Workers’ Compensation claim. If you miss your filing window, your claim could be denied. Most denials or benefits suspensions can be appealed. However, it is almost impossible to appeal your case if you don’t comply with the specified deadlines. Keep in mind, all injuries, no matter how small, must be reported to your employer before a workers’ comp claim. The sooner you make your report and file your claim, the better your chances of obtaining your benefits.
Legal Information For Employees Who Were Injured In Workplace Accidents
Finally, there are two last additional points that claimants should keep in mind to increase their chances of being approved:
With regard to the initial assessment of your injuries, the insurance company often will request that you undergo a physical exam by one of their physicians. It is essential that you comply with all instructions given, and do not miss any medical appointments. If you do not follow all instructions strictly, it may be used as a reason to deny or at least delay the awarding of your benefits – both of which are outcomes you will obviously want to avoid.
While most Workers’ Compensation matters proceed routinely, occasionally an innocent clerical error or misunderstanding will disrupt the normal process. In situations like these, it is often possible to explain to or negotiate with the insurance company; or, if the problem is more serious, the AWCC can arrange a preliminary mediation. If mediation is ineffective, a Claim for Compensation – Form C (AR-C) should be filed within two years of the incident with the AWCC. Again, an attorney can assist you with this process.
Do I Need a Fayetteville AR Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to Handle My Claim?
While no law mandates legal representation for injured workers, it is wise for workplace accident victims to seek the counsel and guidance of a Fayetteville AR workers’ comp attorney who is deeply familiar with the complexities of the state and federal laws and regulations governing these sometimes convoluted procedures. This is especially true in situations where the employer is disputing the claim, or where benefits have been denied for any reason.
Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law been representing hard-working Arkansans like yourself for nearly 20 years. He is dedicated to fighting for you and will protect your legal rights and best interests while assisting you with the claims process at all stages. Though based predominantly in Fayetteville, Ken Kieklak is proud to serve many communities throughout the state.
To schedule your free and confidential initial consultation, call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online today. Injured workers have legal rights – and our law firm is here to protect them.
Fayetteville Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one suffered an accident at the workplace, we may be able to help. A Fayetteville workers’ comp lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve after your accident. Backed by years of experience, we know what it takes to guide you and fight for your rights as an injured victim. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer, call the offices of Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, today at (479) 316-0438.