More than 260,000 small businesses operate in Arkansas, making up the majority of the state’s commercial landscape. Key industries in the state include aerospace and defense, logistics services, food and beverage, and high-risk trades such as metals, timber, and transportation equipment manufacturing.
With the huge number of businesses operating and employing workers in the state, it is not unlikely that there are workers who get hurt or sick while doing their jobs. In 2021, the state recorded an estimated 26,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in total. This number equates to an incidence rate of 2.4, slightly lower than the national rate of 2.7.
While non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses in Arkansas decreased from 25,000 in 2020 to 21,000 in 2021, occupational fatalities increased from 64 to 74 in the same period. In situations like this, the government, at the federal and state levels, has measures in place to protect both employees and employers.
In Arkansas, businesses that have three or more employees are required by law to get workers' compensation insurance. This type of coverage provides compensation to workers if they are ever injured on the job.
Workers' compensation laws and benefits vary per state. If you are an employee in Arkansas looking to file a claim for your injury or a business owner wanting to know more about workers’ compensation requirements, this article provides information that can help you.
Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements
As already mentioned, Arkansas businesses employing three or more workers are required by law to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Companies that have fewer than three employees should contact the AWCC’s Compliance or Legal Advisor Division to verify whether they are exempt from workers’ compensation requirements. Noncompliant employers may face sanctions from the state.
Who Is Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Coverage in Arkansas?
All types of employees are counted, whether owner, proprietor, full-time, or part-time. However, there are workers who are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because they are not considered employees. These workers include:
Real estate agents.
Maritime and railroad workers may not have workers’ compensation insurance. Their benefits are provided under federal laws instead. If you are any of the above or unsure about your classification as an employee, you may consult with an Arkansas workers’ compensation or employment lawyer to avoid any unnecessary trouble in the future.
How Can Employers Get Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Employers can obtain workers’ compensation policies from private insurance companies, agencies, or brokers licensed to sell them. If a business self-insures, it will not be required to purchase a separate workers' compensation policy. AWCC Rule 099.05 specifies the criteria for qualifying for self-insurance.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Disregarding workers’ compensation laws in Arkansas has repercussions. Employers who do not obtain workers’ compensation insurance for their personnel even though the law requires them to do so may suffer the following consequences:
A fine of up to $10,000.
A conviction for Class D felony.
Loss of protection that the state of Arkansas and AWCC provide to local businesses.
Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In Arkansas, employees injured on the job are entitled to the following workers' compensation insurance benefits:
Medical care: This includes hospital bills, surgery, prescription drugs, and other medical supplies prescribed by the attending physician.
Rehabilitation: This covers physical therapy and other extended treatments required for recovery.
Wage loss benefits: These are payments for lost wages if an employee has to take time off work because of their injury.
Disability benefits: These are for employees who were seriously injured or ill after a workplace accident. Workers' compensation can cover temporary, partial, or total disability, depending on the severity of the injury.
Death compensation: This covers funeral expenses not exceeding $6,000 and corresponding monetary compensation to the surviving dependents of the deceased employee.
What Injuries Are Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Arkansas workers’ compensation laws follow the no-fault system. This means that an employee does not have to establish negligence on the part of the employer to qualify for compensation. Even if the employee’s own action or negligence led to the injury, they may still receive workers’ insurance benefits.
While workers' compensation insurance covers almost all workplace injuries, there must be a specific and identifiable time and location where the incident occurred. The only exceptions to this are afflictions that develop over time, such as:
Injuries caused by rapid repetitive motion, like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Gradual onset of back injuries.
The conditions are compensable as long as the claimant can prove that their work, or more than 50% of it, led to the injuries.
For mental health injuries, the employee will only be covered if the injuries are a direct result of being physically injured on the job. In case of a heart attack, the employee will be compensated if the incident is due to extra exertion at work or if something unexpected happens on the site, causes physical harm, and then leads to the heart attack.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Arkansas
Both the injured employee and the employer share the responsibility for ensuring a successful workers’ compensation claim. The former should promptly inform the company of the incident and prepare the necessary papers. After receiving the report, the employer must then reach out to their insurance provider to determine the next steps in the process.
When Is the Deadline for Filing Workers’ Compensation Claims in Arkansas?
Arkansas law gives employees two years from the date of injury or death to file a workers’ compensation claim. Delaying the filing for workers' compensation can result in lengthy appeals or, worse, rejection of the claim. If your employer has already started paying you but stopped giving your workers' compensation benefits, you have one year from the date of the last payment to file a claim with the AWCC.
Step-By-Step Guide on Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Arkansas
Most of the time, filing a workers' compensation claim in Arkansas is simple. The uncomplicated process enables injured workers to receive restitution quicker compared to normal lawsuits. However, there are still aspects that can make the process tedious for an already-injured worker.
To give a summary of the process of filing a claim, here is a step-by-step guide that employees can refer to:
1. Notify your employer about your injury
You should inform your employer about the incident. Provide the details by filling out a Form-N or an Employee’s Notice of Injury. This report collects the following information:
An account of the incident and the injury or illness that came as a result of it.
The body parts or areas affected.
The time and location of the incident.
Witnesses who can support your claim.
Your employer must then fill out a First Report of Injury or Illness document and submit it to the AWCC and the insurance company.
2. Seek medical attention
Visit a doctor if you have not done so already. This will help determine the extent of your injuries. Inform the doctor about your injury and provide details on the incident at work that led to it. Your employer or its workers’ compensation insurance provider may choose a specific healthcare professional to look into your injuries.
You must follow the doctor’s order; noncompliance with the insurance company’s requirements may result in your benefits being denied. In addition, remember to keep a copy of the documents you have submitted as evidence for your claim.
3. Find the right forms and accomplish them correctly
There are several forms that must be filled out and submitted to the AWCC when filing a claim. Most of the time, employers will already have them available for employees, but if not, they can be found and downloaded on the commission’s website.
These forms include the following:
Claim for Compensation.
Employer's Intent to Accept or Controvert.
Death or Permanent Total Disability Case.
Lump Sum Request.
They are necessary to help both the insurance provider and the commission assess whether to approve or deny your claim. Depending on the severity of the injury and the circumstances surrounding it, you may be eligible for multiple benefits, such as disability benefits and wage loss payments, in addition to coverage for your medical expenses. How you will receive the benefits will be determined during this process.
4. File the papers and submit your claim
After completing the required forms, you have to make sure that they are filed properly. Some employees, after completing the paperwork, assume that their employer will do the rest, only to find out later that there are problems with their claim.
An employer may be fined up to $500 if they fail to forward your claim within 10 days of receiving it, but communication problems and other issues could result in the procedure not being strictly followed.
To avoid any unnecessary complications, you must take on the responsibility of ensuring that your claim is complete, accurate, and filed on time.
5. Give accurate statements when contacted
If a representative from the insurance company contacts you regarding your injury and the incident, make sure that you only give truthful and accurate statements. Providers usually conduct investigations to verify the validity of the claim. It would be easier for you to keep a written record of the events, not only for immediate needs but also for potential use in the future.
6. Wait for the decision
Now, all you need to do is wait for the approval or denial of the claim. If there are mediation or settlement meetings scheduled, it is best that you attend these proceedings to maximize your chances of achieving the best possible outcome. Additionally, having an experienced attorney represent you throughout the negotiations can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Their thorough evaluations can also help you make well-informed decisions before accepting any settlement from the insurance company.
What Should One Do If a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Arkansas Has Been Denied?
In the event that your claim has been denied, do not lose hope because you have the right to an appeal. First, file a Form C or a Claim for Compensation with the AWCC. This requires the insurance company to provide detailed descriptions of why your claim was denied.
Once you receive the insurer’s explanation, you can start collecting further evidence, such as forms or medical records that you were not able to submit previously.
The insurance company may then change their initial decision during this time and accept your claim. However, if it is still denied, you will need to file a formal appeal.
You can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. This judge helps resolve disputes between parties who fail to settle administrative cases amicably, including workers’ compensation.
The hearing should be scheduled within 90 days of your request. During the hearing, you will need to provide evidence that supports your claim and refutes the corresponding evidence from the insurance company. This can include testimonies by medical professionals and coworkers as witnesses. You can also present other documents that can further help your case.
If you are still not satisfied with the judge’s decision, you can move to appeal it to the Full Workers' Compensation Commission. The decision may be reviewed in a judicial court like the Arkansas Court of Appeals or, in rare cases, the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Legal Resources for Injured Workers in Arkansas
Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage Verification
Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage Verification is a service provided by the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission. It allows employees to conveniently do a quick search to know whether their employer or company carries the state-required insurance for workers. If you think that there are discrepancies in the information shown, you can contact the office at 800-622-4472 or go directly to their website.
OSHA Little Rock Area Office
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is an agency under the U.S. Department of Labor. In the last few decades, its main goal has been to provide workers in the U.S. with a safe and secure working environment and conditions. If you are injured in your workplace and want to know more about the federal rules and regulations that cover your case, you may reach out to the OSHA local office. You can contact them at 501-224-1841 or visit their Arkansas office at 10810 Executive Center Dr. Danville Bldg. #2, Ste. 206, Little Rock, AR 72211.
Arkansas Law Help
Arkansas Law Help is a free legal resource committed to assisting Arkansas residents dealing with noncriminal legal matters. In partnership with Legal Aid of Arkansas, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and Legal Services Corporation, it aims to provide valuable information that can help Arkansans navigate the complexities of the legal system. It also offers dedicated resources on workers’ compensation and workers’ rights, equipping employees with the fundamental knowledge to initiate a claim.
Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing
The Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing promotes the safety and welfare of the state's workforce. This state government office aims to protect employees from the financial impact of work-related injuries, diseases, or illnesses. If you want to know more about the assistance that they can offer, you can contact them at 501-682-4500 or email@example.com.
Arkansas Free Legal Answers
The American Bar Association offers a service called Free Legal Answers that is accessible in many states, including Arkansas. The Arkansas Free Legal Answers website links users to qualified attorneys who can provide free legal advice. Employees who plan to file a workers’ compensation claim or have any questions regarding the process can directly go to their site and see if they qualify for the service.
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