Arkansas' system of workers' compensation is compulsory, meaning that employers are required to provide workers' compensation insurance to their employees. Workers' compensation insurance may be provided through private insurance carriers or self-insurance. Waivers may be permitted to exclude certain employees from coverage, including corporate officers and sole proprietors.
Exemptions from coverage may apply to certain employees, including agricultural workers, domestic workers, independent contractors and casual employees.
Medical Benefits are provided to employees entitled to workers' compensation benefits, with restrictions on both the duration of treatment and cost of care. The limits may be waived by the employer, or injured worker may petition the Workers' Compensation Commission for additional coverage.
The employer chooses the employee's treating physician. The employee has the one-time right to petition the Workers' Compensation Commission for a change of physician, whether within the employer's managed care organization or to his established, regular treating physician.
Indemnity benefits are payable to injured workers to help make up for lost income. There is a waiting period of 7 days before a worker is eligible for indemnity benefits, but if the worker's disability lasts more than 14 days indemnity benefits become retroactive to the date of the injury.
Benefits available to injured workers include the following:
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are paid to workers who are unable to work due to injury, but who are expected to make full or partial recovery such that they may return to work. Benefits are based upon 2/3 of the worker's average weekly wage, subject to a cap, and continue for a maximum of 450 weeks. Offsets may apply for unemployment insurance benefits and group disability benefits.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
When a worker is not expected to recover from a total disability caused by a work-related injury, and as a result suffers a total loss of earning capacity, the worker becomes eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. In Arkansas PTD benefits are calculated based upon 2/3 of the injured worker's pre-injury weekly wage, subject to a cap. PTD benefits may continue for up to Benefits are for length of disability and may be paid for life. Offsets may apply for unemployment insurance benefits and employer-paid disability benefits.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Once an injured worker has recovered to the maximum possible extent, the worker may be able to return to employment but nonetheless remain partially disabled, and may potentially qualify for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. In Arkansas PPD benefits are determined based on a statutory schedule and an objective anatomical impairment rating based upon the injured worker's TTD rates, past earnings, and the nature of the injry. Unscheduled PPD benefits are determined based upon an impairment rating, along with factors such as the injured worker's education, occupation and age. PPD benefits are payable for a maximum of 450 weeks.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
When a worker suffers an injury that limits his ability to return to work, resulting in a reduction of income as a result of reduced hours or wages, the injured worker may be eligible to receive a benefit based on the difference between the worker's pre-injury earnings and their reduced, post-injury earnings. In Arkansas, TPD benefits are paid based upon 2/3 of the difference between the injured worker's pre-injury and post-injury wage, subject to a cap, for a maximum of 450 weeks.
For some, more serious injuries, workers' compensation indemnity benefits may be paid according to a statutory schedule, instead of following the standard model of the weekly benefit based on the duration of the disability. Scheduled injuries include such injuries as the amputation of an arm, the loss of a dominant hand, the loss of a leg, the loss of a foot, the loss of an eye, or loss of hearing in an ear.
Coverage may be available for certain cumulative trauma, disfigurement, and occupational hearing loss.
When a worker dies as the result of a work-related injury, workers' compensation pays additional benefits, including a burial allowance, and benefits for a surviving spouse and dependents. Survivor benefits are calculated based on 50% of the worker's average weekly wage. Spousal benefits end upon remarriage. Benefits for dependent minors end at the age of 18, but may continue until the age of 25 if the child remains a full-time student, or indefinitely if the child is disabled.
Attorney fees are subject to a statutory formula and are limited to 25% of the indemnity award. Half of the attorney fees are paid from the injured worker's award, and the other half is paid by the workers' compensation insurer. Fees must be approved by the workers' compensation commission.
This article provides a quick overview of the benefits available to injured workers, but the full formulas used for assessment of benefits, coordination of different types of benefits, and assessment of injuries and disability ratings can quickly complicate the determination of benefits. Also, states frequently revise their workers' compensation laws. Most workers who suffer a significant injury or wage loss as the result of a workplace injury will benefit from consulting a workers' compensation lawyer.
The state agency responsible for workers' compensation is:
Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission
324 Spring Street
P. O. Box 950
Little Rock, AR 72203-0950
(501) 682-3930 or 1-800-622-4472