Idiopathic Injuries

In order for an insurance company to have to pay on a work injury claim in Arkansas, the injury must, among other things, arise out of and in the course of an injured worker’s employment.  In other words, the work injury must be a natural and probable consequence or incident of the employment and a natural result of one of its risks; for example, a machine operator’s hand becomes stuck in the machine she’s operating.  An idiopathic injury is one whose cause is personal in nature or peculiar to the worker; for example, an office worker is walking back to his desk when his knee suddenly gives out and he falls to the carpet.  The knee buckling could have occurred anywhere; the employee just happened to be at work when it did.  Because an idiopathic injury is not related to the employment, it is generally not compensable unless the conditions of employment contribute to the risk by placing the worker in a position which increases the dangerous effect of the injury; for example, an employee walking on a catwalk suddenly suffers a seizure, causing her to fall over the guard rail onto the concrete below.

Insurance companies love to try to defeat valid workers’ compensation claims by saying that they’re idiopathic and that the injury could have happened anywhere.  We often see these folks spouting the idiopathic injury case law to injured workers, in an attempt to intimidate and confuse them into believing that they have no claim.  If they’re saying that your work injury is idiopathic, give us a call to discuss your options, any time.  When insurance companies make these idiopathic injury arguments, they are sometimes very, very wrong.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

Loss of Future Earning Capacity in Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Law: What Happens If I Get Injured and Then Can’t Get a Good Job?

Of all the benefits available to injured workers under our Workers’ Compensation Act, this is one of the most valuable.  Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely pay out wage-loss disability benefits voluntarily.  In fact, in order for the insurance folks and their lawyers to ever pay what they owe in this regard, they basically have to be forced to do so.  Needless to say, it becomes very difficult for an injured worker acting alone in a claim to get this done.

If an employee suffers an injury that causes disability to the body as a whole (usually neck, shoulder, hip, back, skin and/or head); the injury qualifies for an impairment rating under the AMA Guides; and the employee has permanent work restrictions making it so he or she can’t return to previous employment, that employee is entitled to ask a Workers’ Compensation Judge for an award of benefits based upon a loss of future earning capacity.  As a simple example of how this could work, if a diesel mechanic making $20.00 an hour suffers a back injury; gets a 10% whole-body impairment rating; is assigned permanent, light-duty work restrictions; and is only able to get a job that pays $10.00 an hour, a Judge might find that the employee in this example has suffered wage-loss disability of 50%, since he or she is only able to make half of the pre-injury wage.  This can add up to some big bucks, really fast.

If you’ve had a work injury and think you’re going to have to take a pay cut, give us a call.  We’d be happy to visit with you and give you honest, real, straightforward advice on how you may be able to make a wage-loss disability claim.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

“Can They Take Away My Job?”

We hear this question from injured workers all the time, and the correct answer is “probably not.”  Under the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act, employers have a duty to return an injured employee to work if suitable employment is available within the employee’s physical and mental limitations.  Employers often either ignore this duty completely, or they provide “suitable employment” to an injured worker temporarily, and then suddenly (and without good reason) take the job away.  This may very well violate State Law, and it could also lead to the employer and its insurance company owing an injured worker a substantial amount of additional workers’ compensation benefits in a claim.

Getting the insurance company to admit it’s wrong and pay this additional cash is, unfortunately, a big problem for injured folks.  The insurance carrier almost never voluntarily pays any additional money in this scenario, and many injured Arkansans who suspect they’ve been swindled out of a job end up simply convincing themselves that since Arkansas is an “at will” employment state, the employer can basically give or take away any job as it pleases.

The bad news for employers and the insurance folks is that Hart Law knows how important having the ability to earn a living is to working Arkansans, and we have been fighting the insurance companies over taking jobs away from our injured clients for years.  In this case, for example, we went all the way to the Arkansas Court of Appeals to obtain additional benefits for a client who was provided with a light-duty position that was later withdrawn.  His job was yanked for no good reason, and we made them pay.

If you have a claim and something about your job situation doesn’t seem quite right, it may not be.  Call or e-mail us and we’d be glad to visit with you about your claim and your options, anytime.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

Hart Law:   Easy to Imitate, Difficult to Duplicate

At Hart Law, practicing Workers’ Compensation Law is really important to us, because it’s really important to our clients.  Workers’ compensation is what we do, and we work our files 7 days a week, because our clients deserve it.

When we agree to take your case, we’re not taking it hoping that you also have some other, better case for us to handle.  We take your workers’ compensation case, because we really want to handle your workers’ compensation case.  We value working folks, highly, and when they become our clients, we treat them like they’re a part of our family.

When we look around the Internet, it’s pretty obvious that other law firms that dabble in Workers’ Compensation Law come to our website for information, and sometimes even copy it as their own; and we’re flattered by this, frankly.  It means that we’re educating the public, including other lawyers, and really doing something right.  Any time we can help other firms with a workers’ compensation section learn something about the craft of handling workers’ compensation cases so that they can do their jobs better, it’s a win-win for all working Arkansans.

Keep working hard, Arkansas; but if you get injured and you can’t, we’d be honored to talk to you about how we may be able to help.

  Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 6: Settling The Case

Insurance Adjuster, speaking to Claimant: “You don’t need an attorney because I’m going to settle the case with you.” Unfortunately, we hear this story quite often. Insurance companies care about one thing – cash. They exist by making large profits, and they do this by paying out a whole lot less money than they take in. All insurance companies have lawyers who are on call, basically, to assist in this regard. They just love it when you don’t have one.

Because of the multitude of benefits potentially available to an injured worker under our Workers’ Compensation Act, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for an injured worker to even attempt to guess how much his or her case might potentially be worth.  Insurance adjusters know this, so they try to run the settlement show, completely unimpeded.  A typical scenario would be for the adjuster to send the Claimant a letter with various “calculations,” followed by an offer to close the case for a certain amount.  Another tactic is to have their insurance lawyer (most of whom know a whole bunch about workers’ compensation law) approach the injured worker with a settlement number and an offer to draft a set of settlement paperwork for the Claimant to sign. With either option, one thing is pretty much for certain – these insurance folks probably aren’t going to just give away a bunch of money, unless they’re aggressively pressed to do so.

Although the Workers’ Compensation Act has a built in safety provision for injured workers, wherein all settlements have to be approved by a judge, the Commission has the authority to approve a settlement forged by an insurance company and an unrepresented Claimant for an amount that is at the very lowest end of the claim’s fair market settlement value, or even lower, so long as it is deemed to be in the Claimant’s best interests.  Doesn’t it sound like a better option to arrive at the settlement hearing with a deal that’s on the very highest end of the claim’s fair market settlement value, or even more?

At Hart Law, we squeeze every dime of settlement cash out of insurance companies.  Have questions about your settlement or how much your case could be worth?  We’re here to help, anytime.

By:  Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 5: Impairment Ratings

In Arkansas, some workers’ compensation injuries are considered, by law, to be “permanent,” and some are not.  If an injured worker has a permanent injury, he or she may be entitled to receive a permanent impairment rating that is worth money, in the form of permanent disability benefits.  Impairment ratings are usually determined by a doctor (they can also be calculated by a Judge) who uses a book to do so that is filled with complicated tables, graphs, numbers, and charts.

Sometimes, doctors simply get the impairment rating wrong.  Often, insurance companies will try to get out of paying an impairment rating, either in whole or in part, by alleging that the rating is invalid under Arkansas law or failing to request permanent impairment all together.  Many times, an insurance adjuster will write an injured worker who has a permanent impairment and explain the rating incorrectly; misstate the law; miscalculate the benefits owed; and/or advise that the carrier is only paying some or even none of the impairment rating.  One reason insurance companies do this is because they know most injured folks have no idea about how impairment ratings work, and no idea how to correctly value them.  Insurance adjusters also know that if there’s no impairment rating, the injured worker is going to have a very difficult time asking a Judge to award benefits for a loss of earning capacity; permanent total disability; and/or vocational retraining.  These benefits can be very valuable.

If you already have a permanent impairment rating; are in the process of getting one; think you might have one; or think you may deserve one, we’d be glad to visit with you about ratings and your rights, any time.

By:    Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 4: Light-Duty Jobs

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers:   A Series –   Volume 4:    Light-Duty Jobs

Under the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act, employers have a statutory obligation to provide modified-duty work to injured employees who are in an active healing period and restricted from performing full-duty work, if the company is able to do so.  If the employer provides the injured worker with a light-duty job and the employee refuses to perform same, temporary disability benefits could be suspended by the insurance carrier, indefinitely.  So, how do many employers and insurance companies use this statutory duty to their advantage?  They make up the worst light-duty job available and then order the injured employee to show up and do it, hoping it will cause him or her to immediately quit.  Examples of some particularly shady light-duty jobs we have seen concocted in the past include:  1.   Cleaning all the company toilets and then washing the human resource director’s car.  2.  Feather dusting the shop, repeatedly; and then starting over and doing it again, once that’s been done.  3.  Working in a soup kitchen, 75 miles from the Claimant’s house.  4.  Sitting at a table sorting small screws, day after day.  5.   Walking around the shop in circles, sweeping with one arm.  6.  Sitting on a stool all day, in a dark room.       Should the employer do this?  No.  Can they do this?  It depends on how aggressive and experienced your workers’ compensation attorney is.  If any of this already sounds familiar or you are concerned about a potential return to light-duty work, give us a call.  We’d be happy to visit with you about your options.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 3: The Nurse Case Manager

Our Workers’ Compensation Law allows and even encourages insurance carriers to hire ‘nurse case managers’ to handle and direct an injured worker’s medical care in a claim.  Although many nurse case managers are generally good people, make no mistake – they are paid agents of the insurance company, making it heavily debatable whether the nurse could ever really be a ‘neutral’ party in the case.  In a typical scenario, and as discussed in previous blogs, the nurse case manager will contact the claimant in one way or another, often times almost immediately after a work injury occurs, to say that she’s been asked to appear in the case in order to make sure the injured worker gets proper medical care.  The problem with a statement like this is the definition of “proper” medical care.  When the nurse case manager begins directing the medical care in a claim, it is fairly routine, for example, for her to shuffle the claimant away from physicians who are viewed by the insurance company as “claimant friendly”; and to start making appointments for the claimant to see doctors who are well-known in the industry to be “insurance friendly.”  The hope is that by the time the injured worker figures this out, the medical evidence in the case will have already been terminally impaired past the point of no return.  One protection against this is a treating physician who will tell a nurse case manager “no” when she tries to manipulate the claim; but doctors with this kind of backbone are few and far between.  It’s exponentially more helpful for the claimant to be able to rely upon an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will aggressively tell the nurse “no,” if necessary, which is exactly what Hart Law does.

Have a question about your nurse case manager?  Give us a call, anytime.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers:  A Series – Volume 2:  Manipulating The Medical Care


Unfortunately, under our Workers’ Compensation Law, the insurance company in a workers’ compensation case has an almost unlimited right to direct a claimant’s medical care, throughout the claim.  The insurance carrier often uses this advantage, rather immediately, to attempt to impair or terminally damage an injured worker’s case; instead of just trying to restore him or her to a state of good health.  It would be a common scenario, for example, for a recently injured claimant to first be sent to a ‘company’ doctor, well known to the employer, and who has treated many injured employees of that particular company in the past.  In some instances, the company doctor may have certain instructions from the insurance company and/or employer, such as that an MRI or other diagnostic tests are not to be ordered unless they are imminently necessary.  The insurance carrier may also hire a nurse case manager (which will be discussed in more detail in Volume 3 of this series) to further pressure the treating doctor to save costs in the claim, at the claimant’s expense.

If the company physician feels that the injured worker needs a referral to a specialist, it is very common for an insurance company to once again intervene in the medical decision making process and shift the claimant’s medical care to some other insurance doctor.  If the insurance carrier doesn’t like what the specialist has to say, it sometimes sends the claimant for an allegedly “independent” medical examination, typically conducted by – yes, you guessed it – yet another insurance doctor.  By the time the claim gets to this point, the ‘evidence’ generated by the insurance carrier many times so overwhelmingly disfavors the injured worker that the case can never be successfully revived, even by the most skilled of workers’ compensation attorneys.  Oh, but it doesn’t stop there.  Insurance companies have been known to continue paying nurse case managers, for example, to try to collect additional medical evidence, favorable to them, even when a claimant has finished treating and the case is in active litigation.

If some of all of the above sounds familiar, we’d be glad to visit with you, anytime, about how we may be able to repair your case, before it’s too late.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

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