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BY AMY ESTES TURNER

The Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Law has a number of primary purposes, one of which is to pay disability benefits and reasonable and necessary medical expenses to all legitimately injured workers who suffer an injury or disease arising out of and in the course of their employment. A.C.A. § 11-9-101. In determining whether these laws cover the Flu, the two key phrases to look at are “injury or disease” and “arising out of and in the course of employment”.

The Worker’s Comp laws provide a laundry list of covered compensable injuries, such as an accidental injury which requires medical services or results in disability or death, an injury caused by rapid repetitive motion, a mental illness that is caused by physical injury to the employee's body, hearing loss, a cardiovascular injury resulting from the exertion of the work that was extraordinary and unusual in comparison to the employee's usual work and a hernia caused by sudden effort, severe strain, or the application of force directly to the abdominal wall that is so severe that the employee must quit working immediately.

Some injuries not covered by Worker’s Comp are those to any active participant in assaults or combats which are the result of non-employment-related hostility even if they may occur in the workplace, horseplay, an injury where the accident was substantially caused by the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs in contravention of physician's orders, and an injury which incurred during recreational or social activities for the employee's personal pleasure.

Clearly, the Flu would not fall under the category for an injury, so we must look further to occupational diseases. To be compensable under Worker’s Comp, a disease must result in disability or death and arise out of and in the course of the occupation or employment of the employee or naturally follow or unavoidably result from an injury. A.C.A. § 11-9-601. Here, a causal connection between the employment and the occupational disease must be established. So, this would include diseases such as Asbestosis and Silicosis, characteristic fibrotic conditions of the lungs caused by the inhalation of asbestos or silica dust or a contagious or infectious disease contracted in the immediate connection with a hospital or sanatorium in which persons suffering from that disease are cared for or treated.

However, an ordinary disease to which the general public is exposed, such as the Flu, would be virtually impossible to causally connect to the worker’s employment. Therefore, the Flu is not covered by the Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Law.

printed in the NWA Media

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