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Prevailing Factor Under Kansas Workers Compensation

Slape & Howard April 11, 2022

In Fiscal Year 2021, the Kansas Department of Labor and its Workers Compensation Division report there were 44,506 new claims, which represented a decrease of 1,047 (or 2.4%) from the previous year. Of the total, 41,514 (93.3%) were for traumatic injury claims. There were also 2,191 occupational disease claims (4.9%). Only 9,233 claims were for lost time at work.

Though the department touts an increase of safety awareness in workplaces as contributing to the decrease in injuries, another important factor is the workers compensation system itself. Since the enactment of the Kansas Workers Compensation Act (KWCA) in 2011 and subsequent changes to the medical evaluation standards, it has become increasingly difficult to file a successful claim.

Much of this has to do with the fact that the KWCA mandated that a workplace injury or illness has to be the “prevailing factor” in the resulting condition that needs treatment. In other words, if you aggravate a pre-existing condition — a bad back, for example — and you apply for workers compensation, you can be denied because the incident at work was not the prevailing factor — your pre-existing condition was.

Our Wichita-based team of attorneys at Slape & Howard has been fighting for changes to the KWCA since its enactment, and we have helped countless employees throughout the state press their claims for compensation for workplace-induced injuries and illnesses. We have also joined with other attorneys and legal firms in lobbying for changes to the KWCA.

If you’ve suffered an injury or become sick because of a workplace disease, contact us immediately. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources to help you file your claim and appeal any adverse decision you may receive.

Workers Compensation in Kansas

The 2011 rewrite of Kansas statutes regulating workers compensation did more than just institute the prevailing factor standard. It also shortened the time limit for filing, requiring an employee to get a medical evaluation within 20 days of the injury or illness. The KWCA also excludes conditions that result from the natural aging process and normal activities of daily living.

In addition, certain medical conditions (including 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.”

In cases of disability, the employee must show a minimum permanent partial disability of 7.5% of the body caused solely by the injury or a minimum of 10% functional disability if there is pre-existing impairment.

To further complicate claims, the state also adopted the 6th edition of the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, which curtailed physician discretion in evaluating injuries.

The KWCA also changed how workers are compensated for lost time at work. The new law states that workers get only "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."

The Prevailing Factor Standard

Before the KWCA, if you aggravated a pre-existing condition (such as a bad back in our earlier example), you could expect to be covered by workers compensation for medical treatment and any lost wages at work. Now, the KWCA uses the term “prevailing factor” in almost every clause of its definition of covered injuries.

For instance, “The accident must be the prevailing factor in causing the injury.” And in another example, “The repetitive trauma must be the prevailing factor in causing the injury.”

This means that you must have a solid medical evaluation that points to the accident at work as being the prevailing factor — the primary reason, in other words — for your injury. If you just state that an accident at work left you unable to perform your normal duties because of a strained back, or other cause, but you don’t have medical evidence to back it up, you’ll likely face a denial of benefits.

Seek Professional Legal Counsel

It’s important to rely on experienced workers compensation attorneys when filing your claim. Just filling out a form and providing a doctor’s note may not be enough. While you’re trying to recover from your injury, the last thing you need is to go back and forth with an insurance company on whether you deserve compensation. Let your attorney deal with the insurer and their claims adjusters.

Our Team at Slape & Howard is Ready to Help

At Slape & Howard, we know the ins and outs of how the revised workers compensation system works, including the medical documentation needed and the deadlines that need to be met. You can rely on us to see that your claim gets filed properly and on time. We will also stand by you throughout the process should any appeals need to be filed.

Wherever you are in the state of Kansas, if you’re injured at your job or fall ill due to a work-related illness, contact our Wichita office immediately.