It’s important. Very important. Why? Because it represents the only income injured working folks usually have to survive on while they’re in a healing period, following a work injury. But it’s more than that. The eventual value (settlement and otherwise) of workers’ compensation cases is based heavily upon what the claimant’s weekly compensation rate is determined to be. Under law, the average weekly wage and corresponding compensation rate are to be based upon a worker’s contract of hire at the time the injury occurs. The alternate calculation, favored by insurance companies, is to arrive at a rate by analyzing how much an injured worker earned in the year prior to his work injury, and then dividing that number by 52 weeks. Insurance companies like this method, because it often makes the compensation rates lower (sometimes much lower) than they legally should be. This devalues the case, and saves the insurance carrier cash, at an injured worker’s expense. Competent workers’ compensation lawyers should always make accurately determining a client’s weekly compensation rate one of their top priorities.
Claims are often denied by insurance companies under the defense that an injured employee wasn’t actually working at the time the job injury occurred. Under our current law, however, injuries that may not seem particularly work-related at first glance may actually be viable workers’ compensation claims. For example, an injury occurring while an employee is using the restroom, eating lunch, or even on break might very well be deemed to be a compensable claim under our Workers’ Compensation Act. Our Employment Services Doctrine states that if an employee is performing services at the time of his accident that either directly or even indirectly benefit the employer in any way, that employee is technically “on the job” when the injury occurred. Some of these cases have to be tried in court; and some go all the way up to our Supreme Court, like this one, handled and won by Hart Law in 2006: http://opinions.aoc.arkansas.gov/weblink8/0/doc/273068/Page6.aspx
“Do I have a case?” is a common question in Arkansas workers’ compensation law. Just being injured on the job is rough enough. But then an insurance adjuster comes calling, followed by “official” looking forms in the mailbox. Sometimes a benefit check in some strange amount arrives, and sometimes one doesn’t. Doctors’ appointments are scheduled, or the claim is just outright denied, without much explanation at all.
The answer is yes, you may very well have a case. In fact, it my be a significant workers’ compensation case that involves or has the potential to involve maximum damages under our Workers’ Compensation Law. It is doubtful, however, that an insurance company is ever going to tell you this.