Understanding the Basics of Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas

The state of Arkansas provides a Workers’ Compensation system that is administered by the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission (AWCC). Workers’ compensation programs were developed to respond to the social, moral and practical concerns that arose when a worker is injured or becomes ill due to his or her job duties. Previous common law legal approaches to this issue included concepts and approaches like contributory negligence, the fellow servant rule, and the assumption of risk doctrine. However these approaches produced significant drawbacks and by the turn of the 20th century many employers sought a system that would provide greater certainty and reduce litigation costs. Conversely, workers’ sought a system that would provide disability benefits quickly and routinely should a work-injury occur. With both parties seeking a fresh approach, Workers’ Compensation schemes developed in earnest and questions of compensation for worker injuries was largely shifted outside of the legal framework of torts.

What can Workers’ Compensation Provide for Workers in Arkansas?

In general, Workers’ Compensation insurance programs provide benefits to workers who are injured on the job or who develop an illness or a degenerative condition due to their work. These benefits are typically defined by the state’s worker compensation board. In Arkansas, the Workers’ Compensation program is administered by the AWCC. In exchange for being entitled to the benefits of the Workers’ Compensation program, workers waive the right to sue their employer in most circumstances.

The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation program can provide an injured worker with the funds to pay his or her medical bills along with cash payments to support the injured worker and his or her family until he or she can return to work. Compensable medical claims can include:

  • Hospital care
  • Surgery
  • Prescription medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Doctors’ visits
  • Braces, crutches and other medical devices

Covered injuries include physical injuries that are the result of a specific and identifiable accident. While claims for repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel, gradual on-set back injuries, and hearing loss may be compensable under the Workers’ Compensation regime, they are only covered if the condition is the major cause of the need of treatment or disability. Arkansas law defines major cause as a condition making up more than 50% of the cause. Mental injuries may be compensable under Arkansas law, however the mental injury must flow from a physical injury. Likewise, heart attacks are also addressed by their own specific provisions under Arkansas law.

If you are entitled to cash payments for lost wages under the Workers’ Compensation program, temporary total disability provides 66 and two-thirds percent of the worker’s weekly wage. While Workers’ Compensation payments are less than a weekly salary, part of that difference is offset by the fact that Workers’ Compensation benefits are tax free.

What is the role of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission?

To begin with, it is essential to understand the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission is not an insurance company nor can a worker buy insurance from it. In fact, workers should not be purchasing insurance or paying for Workers’ Compensation insurance at all. The insurance should be purchased by and paid for by most employers in the state of Arkansas.

In general, Arkansas employers who employ three or more workers must provide Workers’ Compensation coverage. However there are exceptions to the three or more rule and some employers may be required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance with less than 3 staff members. To comply with Arkansas’ legal requirements, a company must obtain a Workers’ Compensation policy or receive AWCC for self-insured status. If your company is required to hold a Workers’ Compensation policy or be self-insured, the state will consider it fraud if you have alternate non-complying arrangements. If AWCC cannot verify your coverage or self-insurance waiver it will generally take one of three actions:

  • Send a letter asking the employer to verify coverage with the AWCC’s insurance representative.
  • Send a questionnaire from the AWCC’s Operations & Compliance Division.
  • Conduct an on-site investigation at the employer’s place of business.

Generally speaking employers are liable for Workers’ Compensation benefits for two years from the date of the employee’s injury. If the covered period is greater than two years, the employer is liable for one year from the date of last payment for new benefits. Thus for employers, ensuring that a company is covered by legally sufficient Workers’ Compensation insurance is an essential step in avoiding potentially expansive liability. Workers benefit by having the certainty knowing that if they suffer an injury, they will be taken care of and, generally, will not have to go through the litigation process.

Put our Workers’ Compensation experience to work for you

At the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak, Fayetteville AR workers’ comp lawyer Ken Kieklak has fought for injured Arkansans for more than 20 years. To schedule your free and confidential initial consultation with a Workers’ Compensation lawyer, call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online today.