Every worker wants to know that they are covered under their employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance. Arkansas’ Workers’ Compensation program provides injured workers with a safety net should they suffer a serious injury while working. However, a worker does not simply begin to receive compensation benefits as soon as they are injured; there is a process that must be completed. If you or a family member was injured at the workplace, consult with an experienced Fayetteville AR workers’ comp. lawyer today. The Kieklak Law Firm understands the stress and uncertainty that can come from sustaining a serious work injury and we are here for you. Ken Kieklak is here to explain how to apply for Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas.
Requirements to Receive Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas
The purpose of Workers’ Compensation is to provide injured workers with wages and other benefits if they suffer an injury while working. In Arkansas, workers compensation insurance is handled by your employer and does not cost an employee any money from their wages. However, this often means that an employer has the right to choose the medical providers you see when you suffer a work injury.
The following is a list of requirements that an injured worker must fill to qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Work-Related Injury or Illness
An employee must suffer a work-related injury to be eligible for Workers’ Compensation. A work-related injury is an injury that occurred within the scope of a person’s employment. For example, if you were injured while using a forklift to transport materials for your employer, this qualifies as a work-related injury. Similarly, illnesses that develop because of your work conditions can also justify Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Trying to pass off a non-work injury as work-related can lead to a denial of benefits. It can sometimes be difficult to find the distinction between work-related injuries and non-work injuries, especially if you are not yourself a Workers’ Compensation lawyer. For example, if you are injured on your commute to work, your employer will likely treat your injury as a non-work injury even though you might consider that commute part of your job. However, accidents that happen during transportation between job sites or while driving as part of your job could be considered work-related.
It is important to note that certain circumstances block an injury from being considered work-related even if it happened at work. If an employee arrives to work intoxicated and causes an accident that results in their injury, it may be difficult to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. However, even if you were not intoxicated, but you feel you were partly responsible for an accident, this should not stop you from filing a workers’ comp. application because the question of who was at fault is not an issue in these cases.
The last issue that is difficult to distinguish in many cases is whether a long-term injury or health condition is work-related. Back injuries, repetitive stress injuries, and many illnesses can all develop over a long time working in certain industries, but they might be exacerbated by things you do on your time off work. For instance, asbestosis is usually work-related, but if you are exposed to asbestos at work and you spend your weekends fixing up old houses, it might be difficult to prove whether your exposure to asbestos was work-related or not. Similarly, many people have bad backs from a variety of factors, so you may need the help of an attorney to prove that acute or chronic back issues are related to work and not just personal activities.
Filing an Injury Report
Once you are involved in a work-related accident and suffer an injury, you need to inform your employer as soon as possible. It is best to submit a detailed written report of the injury so that you can keep track of your application. Once the employer receives your report, they should submit a “First Report of Injury or Illness” to their Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier. You should ensure that your employer timely files this document to ensure that your potential benefits are not affected.
It is important that you have a Crawford County workers’ compensation lawyer review the submissions and information you give. In many cases, an employer will use this initial submission as evidence against you if they think that it describes an injury that was not work-related or if it fails to include enough information to account for all of the injuries you faced. For example, if your initial paperwork says that you fell and broke your arm, but you later realize that you also injured your hip, they might try to claim that the hip injury was not reported and thus could have happened outside of work in an unrelated event.
Medical Treatment and Evaluation
As mentioned, you will have to receive medical treatment from a healthcare provider that is chosen by your employer or their insurance carrier for the treatment to be covered by workers’ comp. If you want to see another healthcare provider, you should make that request of your employer, as you could end up having to pay the medical expenses if your decision is not approved.
The medical provider should treat your injuries and evaluate the extent of your injuries. This information will then be relayed to your employer’s insurance carrier so that they can make a determination on whether you should receive Workers’ Compensation benefits.
To ensure that your application has a high likelihood of being approved, you should work with your employer to meet all requirements. For example, you will have to meet several deadlines for filing various documents, and you will be required to keep all your appointments with your assigned healthcare provider.
If the insurance carrier approves your application, you may be eligible for various benefits:
- Braces, crutches, and other medical devices
- Hospital visits to an employer-chosen healthcare provider
- Access to surgical procedures
- Physical therapy
- Prescription drugs
- Wage loss benefits
If your workers’ comp. application was denied, you do not need to panic. You may be able to successfully file an appeal of the decision depending on the circumstances of your case. A Fayetteville, AR workers’ comp denial of benefits lawyer at the Kieklak Law Firm can help you explore your options when it comes to receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits.
What to Do if Your Arkansas Workers’ Comp. Application is Denied
When you apply for Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas, your employer could deny your application for many reasons. Typically, applications are denied because the employer does not believe the injury or illness is work-related, because there isn’t enough information in your application, or because the injury is not serious enough that it needs treatment. Sometimes, Workers’ Compensation might not be outright denied, but benefits might be limited to block lost wages for time out of work on the grounds that the injury is not “severe enough.” In any case, you should speak with a lawyer about appealing your case.
There are multiple routes to appeal a Workers’ Compensation denial in Arkansas. In some cases, your lawyer can contact your employer and clear up any miscommunications or deficiencies in your application. In some cases, seeking a second opinion and report from another doctor could be enough to convince your employer and their insurance company to cover your case. In other cases, you need to appeal to the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission or a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Your Arkansas attorney for delayed workers’ comp claims can handle your case and guide your appeal. In many cases, denials can be overturned or benefits can be extended.
Alternatives to Applying for Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas
In some cases, Workers’ Compensation will be denied because it does not cover your situation or because your employer does not carry coverage. Many agricultural workers and workers in some other industries are not covered by Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas. Similarly, workers’ comp. does not usually extend to independent contractors, and some businesses simply violate legal requirements and do not carry Workers’ Compensation insurance.
If for whatever reason workers’ comp. benefits are not available at your job, you could be entitled to sue your employer or another responsible party for on-the-job injuries. The only issue is that before you can get compensation, you must prove that the employer was at-fault for your injuries – something that Workers’ Compensation does not require you to do.
There are also two major exceptions to Workers’ Compensation rules that allow you to sue for injuries you sustained at work or health conditions developed because of workplace conditions. Usually, work injuries and illnesses must go through Workers’ Compensation, but if they were caused by intentional workplace violence or a third-party, you can often sue instead of applying for workers’ comp.
Workers injured by intentional acts of violence from their employers are not required to file through workers’ comp. insurance and can often expand their damages when they file a lawsuit. In these cases, damages for pain and suffering could also be available, as could punitive damages to punish a dangerous employer.
When third parties cause accidents, you can often sue them instead of filing an insurance claim with your employer’s workers’ comp. provider. This could mean filing a lawsuit for that car accident that took place on the way to work since that wouldn’t be covered by workers’ comp. anyway. It could also help people who are injured in car crashes while working as a driver get additional benefits that their workers’ comp. coverage would not pay for. It could also help people injured because of defective or dangerous safety gear or machinery get compensation from the manufacturer instead of their employer.
What Coverage Can I Expect from a Workers’ Comp. Application?
Workers’ comp. benefits are often paid to cover medical expenses paid to an approved physician and to cover 2/3 of your lost wages.
The medical benefits can be paid as long as your need for treatment persists, and they should be paid to cover any treatment that your approved physician says would be necessary for treating your injury. This means that things like rehabilitation and physical therapy could be covered as well as surgeries and other treatment at a hospital.
Wage-loss damages are available depending on the extent of the injury and how long it is expected to last for. Many injuries are listed on a “schedule,” where Arkansas state law sets a certain number of weeks of benefits that will be paid for loss of a body part or for loss of function in that body part. For instance, losing an index finger at work usually pays 43 weeks of lost wage benefits. Partial injuries might pay a portion of these benefits based on the percentage of lost function.
Talk to a Fayetteville, AR wage loss claims lawyer about what compensation you can expect at the end of your Workers’ Compensation application, and work with a lawyer to help appeal and adjust benefits if you are not getting what you deserve.
Our Fayetteville, Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Attorney is Ready to Work with You
If you or a family member sustained an injury while working, contact an experienced Arkansas Workers’ Compensation attorney today. Workers’ comp. attorney Ken Kieklak has more than 20 years of legal experience litigating a wide range of injury claim, and he would be proud to use this experience to represent you. You do not have to file your Workers’ Compensation claim alone. To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your claim, contact the Kieklak Law Firm at (479) 262-9766, or contact us online.