ARKANSAS HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT AND ARKANSAS INSURANCE DEPARTMENT, PUBLIC EMPLOYEE CLAIMS DIVISION APPELLANTS
BRENDA WIGGINS APPELLEE
FROM THE ARKANSAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION [NO.
Charles H. McLemore, Jr., Public Employee Claims Division,
Willhite, PLC, by: M. Scott Willhite, for appellee.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) appeals
the opinion of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation
Commission (Commission) that affirmed and adopted the opinion
of the administrative law judge (ALJ) in awarding Brenda
Wiggins 40% wage-loss disability and requiring AHTD to pay
all reasonable hospital and medical expenses arising out of
Wiggins's compensable injury. We affirm.
sustained an admittedly compensable injury on 7 December 2013
when the dump truck she was driving was struck from behind by
an eighteen-wheel tractor trailer. Her injuries from the
accident included a nasal fracture and two transverse process
1 fractures in her lumbar spine. The accident also
exacerbated a preexisting condition in her cervical spine,
resulting in four bulging discs. In August 2014, Dr. Barry
Baskin opined that Wiggins had reached maximum medical
improvement and assessed a 7% impairment rating based on the
cervical spine and 10% impairment rating based on the lumbar
spine, totaling a 17% whole-person impairment rating. AHTD
accepted this anatomical impairment rating and the
corresponding permanent partial-disability benefits; however,
it denied that Wiggins was entitled to wage-loss disability
benefits. Wiggins contended that she was entitled to both
wage-loss benefits and attorney's fees.
held a hearing in February 2015 and issued a lengthy opinion
in May 2015. After an exhaustive review of Wiggins's
testimony, her daughter's testimony, and the medical
evidence, the ALJ found as follows:
The claimant's residual physical limitations and
restrictions were such that respondent-employer was unable to
accommodate her. The claimant is adversely affected by the
medicines that she takes in the treatment of her compensable
injury. Additionally, the claimant's residual physical
limitations and restrictions adversely affects her ability to
operate a motor vehicle, to perform small engine repairs, and
the duration of time she is able to sit in a classroom
. . . .
The claimant has sustained her burden of proof by a
preponderance of the credible evidence, that when her age,
education, work experience, and other matters reasonably
expected to affect her future ear[n]ing capacity are
considered in addition to the percentage of permanent
physical impairment, she has sustained a loss of earning
capacity or wage loss disability of 40% over and above her
ordered AHTD to pay Wiggins permanent partial-disability
benefits at the weekly compensation benefit rate of $289 to
correspond with the 40% wage-loss disability, over and above
the 17% anatomical impairment resulting from the 7 December
2013 compensable injury. The ALJ also ordered AHTD to pay all
reasonably necessary medical expenses arising out of
Wiggins's compensable injury.
appealed to the full Commission, arguing that the wage-loss
disability award was excessive and contrary to the evidence
and that "the ALJ's finding that the respondent
shall pay all reasonable hospital and medical expenses
arising out of the claimant's injuries of December 7,
2013 should not be affirmed on appeal because that was not an
issue in dispute and was not litigated." In December
2015, the Commission, in a 2-1 majority opinion, affirmed and
adopted the ALJ's opinion as its own.AHTD has now timely
appealed to this court.
review the Commission's decision in the light most
favorable to its findings and affirm when the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Parker v. Atl.
Research Corp., 87 Ark.App. 145, 189 S.W.3d 449 (2004).
Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. The
issue is not whether the appellate court might have reached a
different result from the Commission, but whether reasonable
minds could reach the result found by the Commission: if so,
the appellate court must affirm. Parker v. Comcast Cable
Corp., 100 Ark.App. 400, 269 S.W.3d 391 (2007). It is
the Commission's duty to make determinations of
credibility, to weigh the evidence, and to resolve conflicts
in medical testimony and evidence. Martin Charcoal, Inc.
v. Britt, 102 Ark.App. 252, 284 S.W.3d 91 (2008).
wage-loss factor is the extent to which a compensable injury
has affected the claimant's ability to earn a livelihood.
Wal-Mart Assoc., Inc. v. Keys, 2012 Ark.App. 559,
423 S.W.3d 683. When a claimant has an impairment rating to
the body as a whole, the Commission has the authority to
increase the disability rating based on wage-loss factors.
Id. The Commission is charged with the duty of
determining disability based on consideration of medical
evidence and other factors affecting wage loss, such as the