Serving clients in Fayetteville and all of NW Arkansas
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) 251-7767.
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.
How Do You Qualify For Workers’ Compensation 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.
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.
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) 251-7767 or contact us online today. Injured workers have legal rights – and our law firm is here to protect them.