Case name: Baxter v. Union Standard Insurance Co., No. CA 11-843 (Ark. Ct. App. 04/11/12).
Ruling: The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that an attorney's back injury arising from a car accident was compensable.
What it means: In Arkansas, an injured worker is required to give notice of his injury to his employer. A self-employed worker is not required to provide notice of his injury to the insurer.
Summary: An attorney who had his own practice was involved in a motor vehicle accident while on his way to a client's house to complete discovery. He had previous back injuries and had undergone 10 back surgeries. After the accident, he had an increase in back pain and severe spasms. He sought workers' compensation benefits. The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that his back injury was compensable.
The insurer argued that the attorney failed to give timely notice of his injury since his injuries were not reported as a workers' compensation claim until six months after the accident. The court said the case was "unusual" because the attorney was both the employer and the worker. Although the attorney did not report his injury to the insurer until six months after the accident, the notice statute requires a worker to report his injury to the employer, not the insurer. Here, the attorney knew of his own injury. A claims adjuster also conceded that since the attorney was "the boss," it stood to reason that the employer was notified of the accident since the attorney was involved.
The insurer also argued that the attorney's claim was "suspect" because he had prior back problems. However, an orthopedic surgeon opined that the accident "dramatically aggravated" his preexisting condition. Although the insurer challenged the surgeon's credibility, the court was foreclosed from determining the weight to be given to the testimony.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
June 11, 2012
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