Slape & Howard
How The Kansas Workers' Compensation Act Is Harmful to Injury Victims
Workers' compensation is a program, mandated by the state, that compensates employees for illnesses and injuries that occur on or because of the job. Each state establishes different rules and requirements for the claims process. Unfortunately, in 2011, Kansas enacted rules that make it particularly difficult for injured or ill employees to obtain the benefits provided.
According to the Kansas Department of Labor, there are approximately 50,000 total injuries reported in a year. So far in 2020 (through mid-October), 1,401 workers' compensation claims were filed in the state, with just 371 of them receiving payments totaling about $41.5 million for compensation and medical treatment. That means that out of nearly 50,000 injuries, only 371 individuals ended up receiving workers' compensation benefits.
If you were injured on the job in Kansas, you may be fearful of filing a claim because of potential employer retaliation or because you’ve heard that most claims are denied. At Slape & Howard, we are experienced workers' compensation attorneys adept at navigating the claims process. We have in-depth knowledge of the rights and limitations under the law and are actively fighting against the injustice created by the 2011 revisions.
Ways the KWCA Is
Harmful to Injury Victims
In 2011, the state legislature, buoyed by influential business groups, passed the Kansas Workers Compensation Act (KWCA), which was aimed at making claims more difficult and favorable employee results less obtainable. It reduced filing time and set new limits on medication and wage compensation rates. In short, it is not friendly to employees, but benefits employers and insurance companies.
Some of the more notable ways that the KWCA is harmful to injury victims include:
Shorter Reporting Time
The KWCA reduced the claims filing period to 20 days after the injury. We had one client whose doctor took 21 days to affirm a legitimate workplace injury, but when he went to file, it was too late.
Must Demonstrate “Prevailing Factor”
Before the KWCA, workers' compensation in Kansas covered aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Now a claimant must show that a workplace accident was the “prevailing factor” in causing the injury, the need for medical treatment, and any resulting disability or impairment. In other words, it must be the primary factor.
Exclusion of Medical Conditions
The Act excludes conditions occurring as a result of the natural aging process or normal activities of daily living; injuries that arise out of a neutral or personal risk with no particular employment characteristic; or injuries that arise either directly or indirectly from idiopathic (unknown) causes.
In addition, certain medical conditions, such as coronary disease, vascular injury, or stroke, are excluded from compensation unless it is shown that “the exertion of the work that caused the injury was beyond that required by the employee’s usual job duties.”
Limited Scope of Employment
The injury must occur during the scope of employment, meaning injuries on break time may be excluded as well as injuries driving to and from work. In addition, insurance companies may deny payment in cases of:
- Intentional self-infliction
- Deliberate failure to protect yourself against the injury
- Your voluntary participation in horseplay or fighting
- Careless violation of your employer's workplace safety rules
Wage Loss Factors
Under the old law, wage loss was based on 100 percent of one’s existing weekly wage, but the new law set a tougher standard: "the difference between the average weekly wage the employee was earning at the time of the injury and the average weekly wage the employee is capable of earning after the injury."
Reduced Hours in the Workweek
The law also no longer presumes that a workweek is 40 hours. Instead, the claimant’s total gross wages can be calculated by as low as a 26-hour workweek.
Disability Eligibility Tightened
Disability eligibility was also tightened. For disability payment, a claimant must have sustained a minimum of 7.5% functional impairment to the body as a whole (10% if there is pre-existing impairment).
New Limits on Medical Treatment
New limits were established on medical treatment. For instance, physical therapy must be reauthorized after 21 visits.
Future Medical Treatments Limited
Future medical treatment under the pre-2011 law required both sides to agree to a closure, usually in favor of cash considerations. Now the claimant must prove the necessity for future treatment.
Job Loss Results in Inability to Receive Payment
Wage loss due to voluntary resignation or termination for cause is not to be considered wage loss for the purposes of work disability. This can mean an employer can stop paying weekly benefits if they tried to accommodate the injured worker on the job and the worker opted out.
As a result of these changes brought about in 2011, injury victims are less likely to have their claims approved thus reducing the liability of employers and insurance companies.
Experienced Kansas Workers' Compensation Attorneys
While filing a workers' compensation claim should be a simple process, in Kansas, if you don’t know what’s required, you can quickly be denied benefits even if your injury was a direct result of your job. You need the guidance of a workers' compensation attorney who understands the law and potential pitfalls.
At Slape & Howard, we have extensive experience and knowledge of Kansas workers' compensation law. We’ll help guide you through the process and help you exercise your rights. You deserve to be compensated for your workplace injuries and we will fight for justice. Contact us today for a free consultation. We proudly represent clients in Wichita and throughout the state of Kansas.