Frequently Asked Questions About Workers Compensation
April 23, 2021
Our team of attorneys at Slape & Howard has been spearheading a drive to revise the state’s 2011 Kansas Workers Compensation Act (KWCA), which reduced benefits and made it harder for employees injured at work to receive the compensation for medical expenses and lost wages due them. The KWCA also tightened filing guidelines, frustrating many employees trying to file a claim for injuries at work.
The imposition of the 6th edition of the American Medical Association’s “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment” raised the bar even higher, further reducing compensation for injuries by curtailing “physician discretion” in evaluating injuries.
As a result of the KWCA and adoption of the AMA’s 6th edition, the reported incident rate for workplace injuries fell from 4.51 incidents per 100 full-time workers in 2011 to 3.30 in 2019. Though on the surface this seems to suggest Kansas workplaces are getting safer, it can also point to the fact that workers are so frustrated with the system that they don’t always report injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
To help you understand the new workers compensation claims and payment landscape in Kansas, our team at Slape & Howard has prepared the following list of frequently asked questions and their answers:
Who Qualifies for Workers Compensation?
Under Kansas law, all employees are eligible for workers compensation, whether they are full- or part-time, seasonal, adults, minors, or others. Independent contractors are not covered. Also, all employers in Kansas are required to carry workers compensation insurance coverage except for employers in a few specific agricultural fields and those with total payrolls of less than $20,000 a year. Employers may qualify to self-fund if approved by the state, or they can join an approved group-funded pool, but they must provide coverage.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Claim?
Generally, you have 20 days after your accident to report your injuries to your employer and request workers compensation. If your covered injury ends up being permanent, you must file your additional claim within three years of the accident or two years from the date your employer last made a payment, whichever is later.
Can I Go to My Own Doctor?
The KWCA authorizes the employer or insurance provider to specify the medical provider. If you go to your own doctor, your claim will be capped at $500. You are allowed to appeal to the Director of the Workers Compensation Board if you are dissatisfied with the doctor assigned to you.
What if The Injury Was Partially My Fault?
Generally, workers compensation is designed to be a fault-free system, wherein neither employer nor employee is held liable. However, the KWCA lists instances in which compensation can be disallowed, including:
The employee’s deliberate intention to cause their injury
The employee’s willful failure to use “a reasonable and proper guard and protection voluntarily furnished by the employer”
The employee’s reckless violation of workplace safety rules and regulations
The employee’s voluntary participation in horseplay or fighting, whether work-related or not
What Benefits Are Injured Employees Entitled To?
The care you receive will cover medical treatment, surgery, hospitalization, nursing care, medicine, medical supplies, ambulance services, personal transportation costs to and from medical services, and medical equipment such as crutches.
On top of that, you can receive payment for lost wages if you’re off work and qualify for Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, but not for the first seven days. If you’re absent from work due to the injury for 21 consecutive days or more, then the first seven days will be compensated. All days are calendar days, not workdays. Pay is set at two-thirds of your average weekly rate, but not to exceed $666 a week. Also, you may receive:
Up to $130,000 maximum in permanent partial disability payments
Up to $155,000 maximum in permanent total disability benefits
What if I Have a Pre-Existing Medical Condition?
The KWCA states that a workplace injury must amount to more than an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. The new statute instituted a “prevailing factor” test, requiring the claimant to prove that the workplace accident was the prevailing factor in the injury suffered. If, for instance, you already had a bad back and the pain was exacerbated while lifting boxes at work, your claim may likely be denied.
Do I Need an Attorney to File a Claim?
Though you can file a workers compensation claim on your own, it is not recommended, given the complexity of the new law and the higher standards of medical evaluation mandated under the AMA 6th edition now in use in Kansas. Certainly, if you hit snags during the process, you should turn to an experienced workers compensation attorney to help you navigate the process to obtain the compensation and benefits you deserve.
How Our Team At
Slape & Howard Can Help
Our firm has been coordinating with other concerned attorneys throughout the state to make proposals to state legislators to revise the KWCA. In addition to these proactive efforts, we have helped countless employees throughout Kansas pursue their workers compensation claims and overcome the hurdles that the insurance companies and employers put up to lessen their liability.
If you’ve suffered an injury or fallen ill due to conditions at your workplace in or around Wichita, or anywhere in Kansas, contact us at Slape & Howard immediately. We will help you assert your rights and obtain the just compensation that you deserve.