Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury

Most of the time, a employee injured at work has only one path to recovery – our Workers’ Compensation Act. Unfortunately, our Exclusive Remedy Doctrine bars injured workers from suing their employers for negligence. If you’re hurt at work, then workers’ comp is what you get. Unless there is a negligent third party involved in the scenario. One of the most common examples of this is when an injured worker is involved in a car or truck wreck while on the job. If the wreck was caused by the negligence of another driver, then the injured employee potentially has a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury case, both arising out of the same accident. A skilled workers’ compensation lawyer, working alongside a skilled personal injury lawyer like Terry Dugger, Of Counsel to Hart Law, can use the workers’ compensation case to build the personal injury case, and ultimately maximize the value of both.

If you think your workers’ compensation claim may also involve a personal injury case, feel free to give us a call to discuss your options, anytime.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

Communicating With Clients In Workers’ Compensation Claims

Arkansas Rule Of Professional Conduct 1.4 states that lawyers shall “reasonably consult with the client” and  “keep the client reasonably informed” about the status of his or her case.  It goes on to require that lawyers “promptly reply to reasonable requests for information” from their clients and to “explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”

In other words, visiting with your clients about their workers’ compensation cases and letting them know what’s going on.  Giving them timely and sound legal advice.  Patiently discussing their options, with an understanding of the temporary strain that our workers’ compensation system puts on injured workers’ lives, and on the lives of their family members.  Explaining complicated legal issues in a way that folks who don’t have a law degree can understand.  Taking an interest in clients and conversing with them like a person, and not like a cash cow.

At Hart Law, we take a great interest in our clients and their cases.  We consider ourselves privileged to be able to represent folks involved in workers’ compensation claims, and we really like what we do.  We don’t talk to our clients a bunch just because the Rules Of Professional Conduct make us do it; we actually enjoy visiting with working folks, and we always speak in a language that makes sense.  When clients call us about their claims, we know who they are and what’s going on with their case.  We know this, because we work on our cases frequently and with relentless attention to detail.  When our clients ask us to do something related to their case, we do it; usually immediately.  At the end of the day, we’re just normal, hard working, down-to-earth people, just like the folks we represent.

Lawyers should actually want to do all of this, but, unfortunately, some of them don’t do it very well.  If you’ve been injured at work and think you might like some help from a law firm that spends a lot of time communicating with its clients and enjoys doing it, we’d be glad to visit with your about your case, any time.

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

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

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


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.