What Benefits Are Available Through Workers Compensation?
Dec. 5, 2022
Workers compensation is a nationwide system of no-fault work-related injury and illness insurance that pays benefits to cover medical expenses and any lost wages. Each state writes its own law on how the system should work, including the benefits to be paid.
Kansas enacted its first workers compensation legislation in 1911 and made a major update in 2011 called the Kansas Workers Compensation Act (KWCA). The act requires that all employers, except for some in agriculture and those with an aggregate payroll of less than $20,00 annually, provide workers compensation coverage for their employees.
The KWCA was and remains employer- and insurer-friendly. It placed new filing deadlines on employees and made qualifying for benefits more difficult by mandating that the workplace injury or illness must be the “prevailing factor” in the resulting condition that needs treatment.
The attorneys at Wichita-based Slape & Howard have been advocating for changes to the KWCA since its enactment, and recently were in the state capital for hearings on Senate Bill No. 164 (SB164), which is proposed legislation concerning caps on the total amount of benefits employees can receive. Historically, Kansas has set its benefit levels, especially for permanent total disability (PTD), well below nationwide averages and has failed to keep up with wage increases.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident or fallen ill due to toxic exposure or other work-related causes anywhere in Kansas, contact Slape & Howard immediately. Let us help you navigate the workers compensation system and assemble the documentation necessary to help your claim. Likewise, if you meet resistance or have seen your benefits cut or canceled, contact us about an appeal and other necessary actions.
Workers Compensation Benefits in Kansas
Almost every employee in Kansas is covered by workers compensation insurance provided by their employer. Workers compensation is no fault, meaning you cannot sue your employer, nor can your employer sue you for whatever injuries or illnesses you sustain.
Generally, the system is designed to provide medical, lost-wage and related benefits for any work-related illness or injury. The only exceptions are if you are intoxicated or high on drugs when the injury happens, or if the injuries result from an altercation you have with another employee.
In Kansas, workers compensation also pays for funeral costs and death benefits for an employee who loses their life on the job. It also pays disability benefits for those who are temporarily or permanently disabled.
Applying for Benefits
You need to report your injury to your supervisor or employer within 20 days of the injury. In the case of repetitive stress injury, you need to report it within 20 days of getting medical treatment. If you are no longer working for the employer, you must report the injury or illness within 10 days of leaving their employment.
What Benefits Are Available?
According to the Kansas Department of Labor and its Workers Compensation Division: “If you are injured on the job, you are entitled to all medical treatment that may be reasonably needed to cure or relieve the effects of the injury. Under the law, your employer has the right to choose the authorized treating physician.”
As for lost wages while you are out being treated and recovering, you will be reimbursed at two-thirds of your average week wage, but payments will not commence until you’ve been off work for seven days, and there are caps.
The current benefit levels and caps for the period beginning July 1, 2022 and ending June 30, 2023 are as follows:
MAXIMUM WEEKLY: $765
MINIMUM WEEKLY: $25
MINIMUM WEEKLY SURVIVORS BENEFIT: $491
MILEAGE REIMBURSEMENT: 58.5 cents per mile traveled for medical purposes
The State’s Low Caps on Disability Benefits
The cap on payments for permanent total disability in Kansas is the lowest in the nation, standing at $155,000, where it has been since 2011. Prior to that, it had sat at $125,000 for 24 years. Going back to 1987, if the levels had increased consistent with the average wage rates for Kansans, permanent total benefits should be at $425,000 right now.
To reach the $155,000 cap, a worker on PTD would only have to be paid that $765 for 202.6 weeks, or about 3.89 years. The cap, in other words, can be reached fairly quickly.
SB164, which died in committee, would have changed the payments to “the employee's average weekly wage in effect on the date of injury for which compensation is being made, starting from the date of maximum medical improvement and continuing for the lifetime of the employee for the duration of such disability.”
We Fight for Your Workers Compensation Rights
Slape & Howard has not only been fighting for changes in the KWCA and its low-ball provisions, but we have also been helping employees throughout the state make the system work for them to the best extent possible.
If you sustain an injury or come down with a work-caused illness, contact us immediately wherever you are in the state. We can help you in every stage of the claims process, from filing to appeal and beyond. Reach out to our team today.