Is An Independent Medical Examination Really ‘Independent?’

Independent medical examinations (IMEs) are very common in Arkansas workers’ compensation claims.  The way it typically works is that the insurance company or one of its agents contacts the injured employee, in the middle of a claim, and says:  “We’re going to set you up for a second opinion.” Most claimants don’t know a whole lot about workers’ compensation law and just want to get physically better, so they usually think seeing another doctor for free is a great idea.  But is it?  Insurance carriers are typically very interested in two things:  1.  Getting a case closed.  2.  Saving as much cash as possible while doing so.  In order to better facilitate this, insurance companies often reuse the same physicians they’ve retained (and paid a bunch of money to) for IMEs in past cases; hoping that the IME doctor will once again arrive at a medical conclusion that will somehow impair an injured workers’ claim.

Under Arkansas law, an IME must be, among other things, reasonable, necessary, convenient for the claimant, and actually ‘independent.’  If a proposed IME doctor is generally well known in workers’ compensation system circles as an ‘insurance’ doctor, it would be difficult to contemplate that an IME conducted by that particular physician either would or ever could actually be ‘independent’ in nature.  Unfortunately, many lawyers just go ahead and allow their clients to attend an IME scheduled by an insurance company, without putting much thought into either the IME itself or the potential damage it could ultimately do to the case.  Legally resisting an independent medical examination that isn’t actually ‘independent’ could mean the difference between developing a solid case for a client, while he or she remains in a state of improving physical and mental health; and having a denied claim with medical evidence too damaging to possibly ever overcome.

Have questions about an IME?  Give us a call or send us an e-mail.  We’re always here to help.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

Using Your Right to a Change Of Physician Wisely


Under Arkansas Law, the insurance company in a workers’ compensation claim has the right to direct an injured employee’s initial medical care.  Often times, this means that an injured worker will be sent to a “company doctor” who is familiar to both the insurance carrier and employer.  If the injured worker needs a referral to a specialist, the insurance company might tell the company doctor where to send a claimant for further evaluation. Under this scenario, it may not take very long at all for a work injury claim to become so overloaded with insurance-friendly physicians that it completely sinks the entire case, before the claimant even knows what happened.

Thankfully, our Workers’ Compensation Act allows an injured worker to ask for a one-time change of physician, to a doctor he or she wants to see, at basically any point during the claim.  The problem is that the insurance company may only have to pay for one office visit to the new doctor, unless the new physician provides the parties with some pretty compelling medical opinions to advance the evidence in the claim.  Because of this, knowing exactly when and how to use a physician change may be extremely important to the outcome of the claim.  If, for example, an uninformed claimant asks for a physician change at an unwise juncture in the case, to a doctor who thinks most folks alleging work injuries are scam artists, the physician change may have just been completely wasted, or worse.

Have questions about a physician change?  Give us a call.  We’re always here to help.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

AWCC Bacis Facts including Change of Physician

Knee Replacements in Workers’ Comp


A fairly common work injury scenario in Arkansas goes something like this:  A middle-aged employee, with a history of heavy manual labor jobs, twists his knee at work.  He’s never really had any knee problems to speak of before; or at least none that he knows about.  The treating physician does surgery to fix torn cartilage, or maybe a torn ligament.  The operation doesn’t work, and the doctor says that the claimant needs his knee replaced.  The claim seems to be going great, right up until the doctor recommends the knee replacement.  The insurance company then alleges that the surgery isn’t work-related.

Unfortunately, this happens to working Arkansans far too often.  Knee replacements are expensive, involve substantial residual permanent impairment, and can make it so all or at least portions of an injured worker’s claim will remain open for life.  Insurance companies know this, and routinely try to skirt paying a partial or total knee replacement claim by making the argument that the claimant had “chronic” or “degenerative” knee problems that were present before the work injury.  While it is true that many knee claims we handle involve claimants who have chronic, preexisting knee problems they don’t necessarily know about, the fact remains that if a work injury is found to be even the slightest cause of the need for a knee replacement, the insurance company is probably going to have to pay for it.  If you’re content, however, to blindly rely upon the insurance carrier’s kindness and good will in this regard, you may be out of luck.

Have knee injury questions?  Feel free to give us a call anytime.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Should I Choose A Workers’ Comp Attorney?

It’s an important question about an important choice.  A choice so important, in fact, that a favorable outcome in your case could very well depend upon it.  Some law firms handle workers’ compensation matters as a ‘side job’ of sorts; to pay the light bills and hope that it leads some other, more valuable case.  Retaining a law firm that dabbles in five or ten different areas of law to handle a workers’ compensation claim seems sort of like hiring a knee, shoulder and hip specialist to operate on your brain.  Some law firms use television ads and big billboards to clamor for the attention of the injured masses, hoping to land new workers’ compensation clients.  At the end of the day, however, judges and insurance companies really don’t care whether or not your attorney is on TV.  They’re interested in knowing if he’s good at what he does.


Believe it or not, there are workers’ compensation claimants out there who know basically nothing about the lawyer they’ve hired to represent them in their case.  They just saw some ad somewhere, and then signed on the dotted line.  When they call for information about their case, their “lawyer” may be “out,” and they’re shuffled over to some assistant who may or may not know anything of value about either the law or the claim.  At Hart Law, we want to know our clients, and we want them to know us.  When our clients call the firm, we know who they are, and we know about their case.  We believe that our clients deserve a very high level combination of legal skill and customer service; and we deliver that, every single day.  Insurance adjusters respect our work, and when we appear in court on your behalf, the folks there already know that we are experienced, successful, and highly skilled.


You may only have one shot at picking the right workers’ compensation attorney.  Before selecting one, it’s important to know what (and who) you’re actually getting.  At Hart Law, what you see is exactly what you get.  Workers’ compensation law is what we do.


Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

On-The-Job Burn Injuries in Arkansas

Many Arkansans suffer burn injuries at work each year, and some of them are quite severe.  The skin is our largest organ.  When it is badly burned, the result is severe pain, a lengthy healing process, and often a high degree of permanent physical impairment.  Because of this, work-related burn cases can be highly complex.  The insurance carrier usually fights hard to end medical care in the claim as quickly as possible.  Getting a proper permanent impairment rating from the treating physician (or from some other doctor), at the end of the case, is crucial to the monetary value of the claim.  Unfortunately, many physicians either don’t want to do this, or don’t know how.  At Hart Law we know how to handle burn injury cases to achieve maximum results.  Let us help you get the benefits you deserve.  Call today!

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Impairment Ratings Work

Some workers’ compensation injuries are deemed, 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, which is worth money, in the form of permanent disability benefits.  Impairment ratings are usually determined by a doctor (mostly by the treating physician, but not always), who uses a book that is filled with complicated tables, graphs and charts.  Sometimes, doctors simply get the impairment rating wrong.  Many times, insurance companies will try to get out of paying the impairment rating by alleging that it’s not valid, either in whole, or in part.  Sometimes the insurance company will write an injured worker who has a permanent impairment and explain the impairment rating incorrectly; misstate the law; miscalculate the benefits owed; and/or advise that it is only paying some or 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.

Having a permanent impairment rating can be very important to a claim, because it potentially opens the door for an injured worker to receive some of the most valuable benefits allowed under our workers’ compensation law.  If there is no impairment rating or if the impairment rating is deemed to be invalid, these benefits may not be available.  If you already have an impairment rating; think you may get one in the future; or think you may deserve one, we’d be glad to visit with you, about ratings and your rights, anytime.

By:  Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law



Rule 099.34 Impairment Rating Guide  

Are You Being Watched?

It’s quite possible.

Insurance companies will try basically anything to defeat a workers’ compensation claim, including paying a private investigator hundreds or even thousands of dollars to track, watch and record an injured worker’s activities.  A skilled insurance lawyer can then use this evidence to build a case against a claimant that may eventually become too damaging to overcome.  Unfortunately, it happens all the time – many times in cases where an injured employee has not had the benefit of visiting with a workers’ compensation lawyer about how the system works and the common tactics used by insurance companies to impair claims.  I know all of the common tactics utilized by insurance companies to impair claims, including surveillance, because I used to be an insurance lawyer.  That’s some pretty valuable experience to have in your corner.

By:  Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How To Settle Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

Let’s face it, when you’re injured at work, the last thing you’re thinking about is how to navigate the Workers’ Compensation claims process. And who could blame you? All you know is that you’re hurting and you want to get better – so you can get bacWorkers' Comp Claim Formsk to work. After all, there are bills to pay and mouths to feed.

But, in all honesty, figuring out how your Workers’ Comp injury translates into future medical expenses and possible job limitations should be at the top of your list. Because the longer you wait, the more uninformed decisions will be made that could jeopardize your Workers’ Compensation claim, your health and your future.

Here are the major steps to consider as you work to settle your Workers’ Compensation claim:

  1. Reach the end of your healing period.
  2. Make sure your employer has provided you with sufficient medical care.
  3. Verify that you’ve been paid benefits at the correct compensation rate.
  4. Assess the seriousness of your injury, most importantly, if you have a permanent impairment and permanent work restrictions.
  5. Determine if you have lost the ability to make your pre-injury wage.
  6. Decide if your injury will require training to perform a different job.
  7. Understand how much medical care you will need in the future and the cost associated with these healthcare services.
  8. Figure out how much all of this is worth under the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act and come up with a dollar figure reflecting that amount.
  9. Approach the insurance claims adjuster with a demand for settlement (this is often referred to as a “demand letter”).
  10. Convince the insurance claims adjuster – and likely their attorney – to agree to that settlement amount.
  11. Review and sign a lengthy set of settlement documents, prepared by the insurance company’s attorney(s).
  12. Go to court and ask an administrative law judge to agree to let you settle the case for the agreed upon amount.

If you have any questions about the Arkansas Worker’s Comp claims process, feel free to call us at 1-800-520-5874, or go Helping injured workers is what we do. And even if we don’t represent you, we can help point you in the right direction.


Attorney Fees Are Set By The State At 12.5% From The Injured WorkerSo, how much do lawyers charge to help settle AR Workers’ Compensation claims? It’s a really good question, especially when you’re hurt, unable to work and you’re trying to keep the bills paid. Every dollar matters, right?

Well, the truth is, attorney’s fees don’t amount to near as much as you might think. Many people think AR Workers’ Comp is the same as personal injury law, where the attorney gets 1/3 of the total settlement. But that’s just not the case.

In fact, an attorney gets a relatively small portion of the Workers’ Compensation settlement amount. For starters, the fees charged by an attorney to represent an injured worker in an Arkansas Workers’ Compensation claim are set by state law at 12.5% from the injured worker. And sometimes even this fee is negotiated during settlement to be paid by the insurance company.

It’s also helpful to know that there are no “up front” charges, or fees. In fact, a claimant doesn’t owe their lawyer a dime unless he/she collects money on their behalf – either through settlement, or by asking a judge to force an insurance company to pay benefits they have wrongfully denied.

For answers to more of your Workers’ Comp questions, check out these FAQs, or call 1-800-520-5874. We’re here to help, even if we don’t represent you.


Back and neck injuries are very common in Arkansas workers’ compensation law. More importantly, spine and joint cases can be very valuable for settlement purposes. The main reasons is that these types of work injuries are often the most problematic, because they can involve long, painful healing periods and produce substantial permanent impairment.

Here are 5 very important things to know about back and neck injury settlements, as well as the insurance company playbook before getting too far along into the AR workers’ comp claims process:

back and neck injuriy settlements

Workers’ compensation claims that involve back and neck injuries can be very valuable for settlement purposes.

  1. Workers’ compensation claims that involve back and neck injury settlements can be quite valuable. In fact, the average settlement for joint and spine injuries can substantially higher than you might think.
  2. Insurance companies know this, and act accordingly, by immediately sending folks with spine and joint injuries to orthopedic doctors they think will help end these claims as quickly and as cheaply as possible. In fact, the insurance company will often hire a “nurse” to meet the injured worker at his, or her doctor’s appointment, at which time the nurse routinely goes into the examination room with the claimant, and then talks one on one with the doctor about the case.
  3. If the insurance company doesn’t like what the treating doctor has to say, the patient is sometimes sent for an Independent Medical Examination, again with a doctor chosen (and paid for) by the insurance company.
  4. Insurance companies want to keep back and neck disability ratings low; the healing periods short; and spine surgeries to a minimum. In the meantime, while the back and neck claims are being potentially dismantled beyond repair, the insurance company and its nurse sometimes tell the claimant that hiring an Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyer to protect them in the case simply isn’t necessary.
  5. If this scenario doesn’t sound quite right, it isn’t. It’s totally legal, but it’s not even close to totally fair. The insurance company may have a legal right to dictate the path of an injured worker’s initial medical care, but it doesn’t have the absolute right to dictate the direction, or the outcome of his or her case.

Knowing all this, it’s not surprising, really, that one of an insurance companies biggest nightmares is when injured workers with severe spine and back injuries seek the advice of a workers’ compensation lawyer early on in the claims process – especially from a lawyer who is already extremely familiar with the typical insurance carrier game plan and how best to counter it. At Hart Law, we already know the insurance company’s playbook. Which is why it’s so important to consider getting legal advice from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney when you have back and spine injuries.

For more information check out the Frequently Asked Questions (link to ), or give us a call 1-800-520-5874.


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