Work-related back injuries could occur if you are lifting heavy materials at a construction site or are bending over to make a copy in an office. A seemingly harmless activity could result in weeks or months of discomfort or pain. If your back injury is severe, you could miss days, weeks, or months of work. Workers’ compensation is designed to help injured employees obtain the monthly benefits they need to make ends meet.
If you file a workers’ compensation claim, you are probably wondering how much you will receive. Typically, you should expect to recover your medical costs and a portion of your lost wages. However, the exact amount depends on the severity of your injury and your current salary.
The goal of workers’ compensation is to get injured employees the money they need to continue supporting their families after an accident at work. Because of this, the amount that you receive can widely vary depending on what your injury is, how much the medical treatments cost, and how much money you make. Our Fayetteville AR workers’ compensation lawyers discuss what kind of settlement you can expect in your case, and how to calculate what kinds of benefits you might receive for a back injury in Arkansas. To learn more about what your settlement could be, call (479) 316-0438.
Does Workers Compensation Cover Back Injuries in Arkansas?
Workers’ compensation is in place to provide financial benefits to people who are injured while working in Arkansas. To be covered by workers’ comp, an injured employee only needs to demonstrate that the injury occurred while engaged in a work-related activity. The type of injury does not matter. If you hurt your back while working, you should be protected under Arkansas’ workers’ compensation laws.
The key element our Arkansas worker’s compensation lawyers will have to show is that your injury resulted from your job. For example, you could have injured your back while refilling the paper in a copier or framing a wall in a newly constructed building. The injury does not have to be related to a physically taxing or dangerous activity. Some people injure their back because they simply sit at a computer too long.
To limit liability, an insurance company might argue that your injury was not work-related. This is especially the case if an injured worker waits to report their injury. You could tweak your back on Friday and feel relatively fine only to find yourself unable to get out of bed on Monday morning. If you failed to report the injury when it occurred, an insurance provider would have a valid claim that an intervening event caused it.
What Kinds of Back Injuries are Covered by Workers Comp in Arkansas?
Back injuries are prevalent no matter where or what type of work someone does. These types of injuries are usually painful with long-lasting repercussions. Furthermore, back injuries occur in every type of work environment, ranging from office jobs to physically demanding construction work.
Back injury symptoms include stabbing pain, dull aches, and constant discomfort. Any one of these symptoms could make it difficult or impossible to work. Under workers’ compensation, you could receive benefits for any type of back injury, including:
- Lower back sprains
- Compressed nerves
- Herniated or ruptured discs
- Spinal cord damage
- Fractures or dislocations
If you do not believe your back injury was properly diagnosed or are not receiving the treatment you need, contact our Bella Vista workers’ compensation lawyers.
WHAT IS A BACK INJURY WORTH FROM WORKERS’ COMP IN ARKANSAS?
Back injuries are some of the most common work-related injuries. Many jobs require heavy lifting, sitting for long hours, bending over all day, and other tasks that put a severe strain on your upper back and lower back. Back problems are the number two reason people miss work across the world, and over 80% of Americans will experience a back problem at some point. For those whose pain is caused by the daily strain of work or a specific workplace injury, workers’ comp might be able to help.
Usually, workers’ comp. pays for two main things when you have to miss work because of an injury:
- 66 2/3% of your typical wages, and
- Your medical expenses related to the injury.
Workers’ compensation pays you something to fall back on for continued support while you cannot go to work, but will not compensate your full wages. Instead, you usually receive 2/3 of your typical paycheck to continue to support you and your family.
Workers’ comp also works to see you returned to work-ready health (when possible). This means covering your medical costs, such as doctor visits, X-rays, surgeries, rehabilitation, and physical therapy. For some back injuries, you may need extensive surgeries to repair problems like herniated discs. If this is the case, be sure to contact our experienced Arkansas workers’ comp lawyers for herniated discs immediately. Other injuries may require intense physical therapy. Still, others may be permanent injuries and require ongoing medical care and treatment. Some medical procedures and treatments may require pre-approval from your employer’s workers’ comp, but they should still cover your needs.
This all means that the price the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission (AWCC) pays you is very dependent on your situation. First, they need to look at your typical paycheck to decide what to pay you in wages. Next, they cover all of your medical expenses, which are difficult to determine the cost of from the outset. This makes it very difficult to determine an average or expected value, but you can certainly use these rules to calculate the potential payments in your own situation.
TYPES AND COSTS OF BACK INJURIES
Workers’ compensation will cover your medical expenses. The cost of medical treatment and care will depend on your type of injury and its severity. There is no way to estimate exactly what your expenses will be without a thorough diagnosis. Even then, not everyone responds to treatment in the same way. Notwithstanding the challenge in estimating medical expenses, below we discuss some common back injuries and their average costs.
RUPTURED OR HERNIATED DISCS
Your backbone is made up of smaller bones that are stacked together. Between these vertebrae are jelly-like cushions commonly referred to as spinal discs. When this jelly-like substance spills out of a disc, it has ruptured. A herniated disc can result in extreme pain. Typically, these injuries occur as the disc degenerates with age. However, they also result from physically demanding work.
The expense of treating a herniated disc depends on its severity. In some cases, the pain is managed with medication and physical therapy. In other cases, surgery is required, costing anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000.
Inside your spine is a tube known as the spinal canal. This tube protects your spinal cord. Stenosis occurs when the canal narrows, placing pressure on the nerves of your spinal cord. Someone suffering from spinal stenosis could experience weakness or numbness in their arms, hands, legs, or feet. As time progresses, these symptoms typically worsen.
Spinal stenosis is usually caused by another injury, such as a herniated disc. Treatment includes managing the pain and addressing the underlying cause. It costs approximately $125 to $500 a month to treat stenosis through ongoing injections. The expense could be significantly greater if surgery is required to treat the root cause. Additionally, some doctors recommend removing the covering of the spinal cord through laminectomy surgery.
If you suffer from sciatica, you are likely experiencing a shooting pain or numbness down your leg. This condition is usually a result of another injury, such as spinal stenosis or a herniated disc.
In some cases, someone can manage the pain of sciatica with over-the-counter medications. However, other individuals require more potent prescription medication or regular physical therapy, which could cost anywhere from $60 to $300 per session. Some doctors recommend steroid injections. These painful injections range could cost you anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 a year.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage on the top of a bone loses its cushioning, resulting in pain and swelling. When this condition affects the spine, it impacts the vertebrae. While this disease is usually associated with old age, it could occur among younger individuals engaged in physical employment.
Spinal osteoarthritis is often treated with medication and physical therapy. However, in some severe cases, it could require a surgical procedure such as laminectomy or vertebral fusion. Treating osteoarthritis could cost you up to $12,000 a year.
Back injuries are not limited to those listed above. Other costly injuries to treat include lumbar strains, spinal fractures, and spondylolisthesis.
WHAT IS THE AVERAGE WORKERS’ COMP SETTLEMENT FOR BACK INJURIES IN ARKANSAS?
Workers’ comp typically pays for your needs on an ongoing basis. You submit a request for treatment, then the AWCC approves your treatment and pays for it. You may also be able to do this backwards and get the treatment first, then submit it to the AWCC to have them pay you back. Your payments for lost wages also typically come in at regular intervals.
Alternatively, you may be able to get a “settlement” for your workers’ comp. Sometimes, an employer or their workers’ comp insurance will offer you a lump sum instead of ongoing payments. The AWCC still needs to approve any settlements, meaning your ability to get payments this way may be limited. Alternatively, you may get a settlement after you’ve gone through problems receiving workers’ comp.
If your workers’ comp was denied, or workers’ comp refused to cover certain treatments or expenses, you may be able to appeal your workers’ comp claim. If you win the appeal, you will typically receive one lump sum to cover the past expenses you were denied.
These settlements vary so much that an “average” value will not help you. Since these settlements can either cover the entirety of the injured workers’ claims or just the parts that were denied, looking at their values is not necessarily helpful. In addition, the injuries themselves, and the costs of medical treatment, vary greatly. While one settlement for a paralyzed worker who fell off a ladder may be quite high, a truck driver who suffers constant low back pain from heavy lifting may have a very different outcome.
Rather than relying upon averages posted on the internet, talk to our experienced Arkansas back injury lawyers about your case and what you may be able to expect.
FILING A THIRD-PARTY LAWSUIT FOR A WORK-RELATED BACK INJURY IN ARKANSAS
If you are familiar with workers’ compensation, you know that under the law, you are prohibited from filing a personal injury lawsuit against your employee. The idea was to develop a system to provide benefits to injured workers without the need to bring a costly lawsuit. Additionally, workers’ compensation benefits are paid much more quickly, while it could take months or years to see any financial recovery from a personal injury lawsuit.
Nonetheless, there are some advantages personal injury lawsuits have over workers’ compensation claims. For instance, in a personal injury claim, you could recover the full amount of your lost wages as well as pain and suffering. So, can you file a personal injury claim to possibly increase your settlement?
The answer to this question is “maybe.” If another party is responsible for your injury, other than your employer, you are entitled to file a lawsuit against them. For example, suppose you were driving to an off-site meeting and your car was hit by another driver, resulting in a serious injury to your back. You could file a workers’ compensation claim and file a lawsuit against the negligent driver.
However, a personal injury lawsuit is very different from a workers’ compensation claim. To obtain workers’ comp benefits, you only have to demonstrate that your injury occurred in the course of your employment. To prevail in a third-party lawsuit, you must prove the four elements of negligence.
First, you must prove that the third party owed you a duty of care. This means that the third party had an obligation to avoid causing you harm through their conduct or failure to act. In the example above, all drivers have a responsibility to safely operate their vehicles.
Next, you must demonstrate that the third party breached their duty. If someone’s conduct deviated from what a reasonable person would have done under the same or similar circumstances, they have breached their duty of care. For example, if a company is hired to install scaffolding at a construction site but fails to install required safety equipment, the company has breached its duty.
Once you have established that the third party breached their duty of care, you must prove that the breach caused your injury. For instance, if you fell from scaffolding because a falling-arrest system was not installed, your back injury was caused by the company’s failure.
Finally, you need to have suffered real damages. This means that you either incurred a financial loss or experienced pain. If a back injury required medical attention and missed time at work, you suffered actual damages.
Third-party lawsuits are not always possible. However, our Bentonville workplace injury lawyers will review the facts surrounding your injury to determine if another entity could be held responsible for your injuries and other damages.
What are the Four Areas of Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
One of the benefits of a workers’ compensation claim for a back injury is a hurt employee only has to show that their injury occurred while on the job. To prevail in a third-party personal injury claim, an injured employee must identify a liable defendant and prove that the defendant’s conduct reached the level of legal negligence. Our Arkansas personal injury lawyers will need time and evidence to establish the four elements of negligence.
Duty of Care
Duty of care is the legal term that describes a person, company, or entity’s responsibility to prevent harm. To succeed in a negligence claim, an injured plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care. For example, a motorist in Arkansas owes other drivers and pedestrians an obligation, or duty, to safely operate their vehicle.
Breach of Duty
Once establishing that a duty existed, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant violated that duty at the time of the accident. Typically, our Arkansas personal injury lawyers will look to establish that the defendant’s conduct deviated from what a responsible person would have done under the same or similar circumstances. A contractor who installs scaffolding but neglects to include required safety equipment, such as proper railings, could have breached the duty of care owed to workers who would use the scaffolding.
After a plaintiff has established that a defendant’s conduct violated the duty of care, they must show that the breach was the cause of their injuries. Failing to install a safety railing could be a breach of duty. However, if a worker was injured because an object was dropped on them, the contractor could not be held accountable – even though they breached the duty of care. If you tried to avoid an object and fell and hurt your back because the railing was missing, the contractor could be held liable.
Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they suffered actual and quantifiable damages. If you fell from scaffolding but were uninjured, you lack sufficient grounds to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit. You must provide evidence that you sustained damages, including medical bills, lost income, or physical and emotional pain.
ARKANSAS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYERS FOR BACK PAIN
If you need help applying to workers’ compensation or you’re having trouble getting your injuries approved in Arkansas, talk to our Huntsville workers’ compensation lawyers today. Our law firm has over 20 years of experience helping Arkansans get the compensation they need for work-related back injuries. For a free consultation, call our law offices today at (479) 316-0438.
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