Arkansas has lower than average workplace injury rates compared with the rest of the United States. All the same, if you do get injured on the job, you'll need to know about workers’ compensation in Arkansas. Here are some key facts you should understand.
Arkansas offers no-fault workers' compensation for anyone injured on the job. The state provides this protection to all Arkansas-employed individuals from the first minute they begin working. The state funds your workers’ compensation in Arkansas as a percentage of your employer's payroll. Covering the cost through payroll deduction is illegal, and your employer can’t require you to pay out of pocket. If this happens at your job, the company may be guilty of fraud.
There is a seven-day waiting period in Arkansas before benefits can be paid out. On average, benefits are paid within the first 14 days after the paperwork is filed. For this reason, be sure to respond quickly to all requests for information. Any delays can slow down you receiving benefits. You will not receive wage compensation if you’re out of work for less than 14 days.
Your benefits include medical treatments and care, rehabilitation costs and, in some cases, wage compensation. You may be able to receive reimbursement for the following:
According to the State of Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission (AWCC), benefits cover any accidental injury that happens while at a place of work or while performing work duties. The injury must cause internal or external harm to the body. The damage also has to result from a specific incident pinpointed by time and place.
A separate provision of the law deals with mental injuries. To qualify for compensation, the mental injury must result from a physical injury to the body. For example, suppose someone suffers a traumatic bodily injury and develops PTSD afterward. The injury must be work-related and not the result of a crime or violence. The state limits benefits for mental injuries to 26 weeks of payments.
State law treats heart attacks the same way. A workplace incident must be the primary cause or more than 50% of the reason for the heart attack. For example, extreme exertion or an unusual event in the workplace may provoke a heart attack. The worker would then be considered eligible for workers’ compensation in Arkansas.
Hearing loss, slow-onset back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome can also qualify for workers’ compensation. However, the condition must be the major cause or more than 50% of the reason for the claim. Additionally, to receive benefits for a chronic condition, you would need to prove that workplace practices were at fault.
When it comes to wage compensation, workers can receive payments for temporary and permanent disability injuries. The payment for temporary or permanent total disability is 66.66% of the worker's average weekly wage. The minimum weekly payment is $20, and the maximum is 85% of the average weekly wage in Arkansas.
Temporary disability benefits last up to 450 weeks, while permanent disability benefits last for the duration of the injury. In some cases, this can be for the worker’s lifetime.
If there’s a fatal accident, the worker’s immediate family receives death benefits. These payments are based on a percentage of the deceased worker's average wage. The family will also receive a burial allowance.
If you get hurt on the job, report it to your employer right away. The company will submit a “First Report of Injury or Illness” report to their insurance carrier. Next, the insurance company will submit the report to the state on behalf of your employer.
After filing the report, your employer or their insurance carrier will assign a medical professional to you. Workers' comp will cover the costs of this provider. If you decide to go to a different doctor, you may have to pay the bill. The insurance carrier needs to approve all medical treatment in advance except for emergency treatment.
You should know about the exceptions to workers’ compensation in Arkansas. Companies with two or fewer employees do not have to participate. Additionally, agricultural farm labor, domestic help, nonprofit, religious, charitable or relief organizations are not required to provide workers’ compensation in Arkansas. The state does not cover railroad and maritime workers since federal law protects them.
Although Arkansas is an at-will employment state, it’s illegal for an employer to fire you while you are receiving workers’ compensation in Arkansas. Despite this, there’s still the risk that an employer may use other reasons to release a worker on workers’ compensation. For example, the company may claim that your performance was unsatisfactory or point to company-wide cutbacks. If you believe that your employer fired you because of your injury or workers’ compensation claim, take action. Seek the help of a lawyer who can help you fight for your rights.
If your claim is denied, you can appeal. However, the AWCC can sometimes take up to three months to process and hear your appeal. Meanwhile, you can’t receive benefits. While the delay may be frustrating, many denials are due to paperwork errors and mistakes. Plus, if you’re injured, navigating the appeal process alone can be tough.
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