When do you need to contact a lawyer for your Kansas workers’ compensation claim?
You have rights as an employee.
Your employer has a legal responsibility to protect you from harm or injury at your workplace or as a result of your job.
However, even in the most careful workplace with the correct precautions, protocol and training in place, people are injured. Sometimes it’s because a mistake was made, but other times it just happens—a true accident that wasn’t anyone’s fault.
That’s why workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance. Kansas workers’ compensation law requires every employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees unless the employer’s gross annual payroll is $20,000 or less (excluding payments to sole proprietors or their family members). The other exception to the rule is employers in certain agricultural industries.
When are you eligible for Kansas workers’ compensation benefits?
Let’s take a look at a few hypothetical situations and how they’d be handled under Kansas workers’ compensation law:
Delores is a receptionist in an accounting firm.
Her job is considered low-risk because her primary functions require sitting at her desk to answer the phones, scheduling appointments, performing data entry and greeting clients who enter the office.
One day, Delores is preparing to go out for her lunch break when a client enters the reception area for an appointment. Delores sets her handbag down by her chair to sit momentarily while she calls the accountant to announce the guest. When she stands again to leave for her lunch, she trips over the bag she’d put on the floor.
Delores falls and breaks both of her wrists. The injuries require surgery and she is unable to return to work for several months.
Should Delores receive workers’ compensation benefits?
Even though the accident wasn’t directly related to Delores’ performance of her job, and even though she caused the injury because she forgot that her bag was on the floor, an accident that happens in the workplace is compensable. She can (and should) file a workers’ compensation claim to cover her expenses.
Donna is an executive assistant.
One Tuesday, Donna’s boss asks her to pick up some flyers that they need for a work-related presentation later that afternoon. Donna heads out to the print shop to get the flyers.
While at the print shop, Donna decides to see how the flyers would appear if she made them half-sized. She begins to use a large paper cutter when the blade falls and severs her right-hand index finger.
Donna must receive emergency medical treatment and have her finger surgically reattached; she is left with a partial disability that affects her ability to work for a long time (maybe for the remainder of her professional life).
Should Donna receive workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. She was not at her physical workplace but she was performing a task required for her job. Therefore, the location of where she was injured is not relevant because the injury happened while she was “at work.”
Margaret works in an office building that was constructed in 1792. She’d been working in the same office for 20 years when she began experiencing a persistent cough, extreme fatigue and some shortness of breath. She visited her primary doctor, and then a specialist, to diagnose her condition.
After ruling out a lot of illnesses and diseases, Margaret’s doctor determined that her symptoms were consistent with long-term exposure to asbestos. She lived in a newer home, so she knew she hadn’t been exposed there because asbestos hasn’t been used in residential construction since 1978.
However, Margaret learned that her office had loose dust from ceiling and floor tiles that contained asbestos. It wasn’t prevalent when her office was built in the 1700s, but later renovations made use of the substance and she had been exposed for decades as she went to work each day.
Should Margaret receive workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. But it will be tricky. Margaret will need to prove to her employer’s insurance company that her asbestos-related symptoms developed because of exposure at work and that there is no other reason she is experiencing these symptoms. Workers’ compensation insurance covers occupational illnesses and diseases that develop over time.
Jed’s job requires frequent travel.
He’s in fairly good condition for an adult his age, but sitting in airplane seats, reaching for luggage overhead and frequently carrying his own bags has begun to take a toll on his body. He begins to experience aches and pains and goes to the doctor.
His doctor says he has a musculoskeletal disorder brought about by strain on his body that could be caused by the way he uses it while traveling for work.
Should Jed receive workers’ compensation insurance?
Maybe, but it’s not automatic. You can receive workers’ comp benefits for an injury that develops from repetitive motion, strain, heavy lifting or other factors related to your job. But in an instance like this one, Jed would need to prove that his pain did not develop for any other reason, including the natural course of aging.
Charlie works for Jed (but Charlie is younger and much more physically fit).
Jed texts Charlie early one morning and asks Charlie to please stop at the drycleaners on his way to work and pick up Jed’s suit that he needs for travel that day. Jed knows that Charlie needs to pass the cleaners on his way to work.
Charlie drives to work, parks in his regular spot, and walks toward the office. On the way, he stops into the cleaners to pick up Jed’s suit. Once Charlie steps out of the cleaners and heads in the direction of work, a cyclist on an electric bike is riding recklessly on the sidewalk. He hits Charlie and Charlie is injured.
Should Charlie receive workers’ compensation insurance?
No. An accident that happens during your commute to or from work, or when you’re “off the clock” is not compensable. Charlie was running an errand for his boss that would arguably be a work-related task, but once he leaves the cleaners, he has returned to his regular commute route.
On the flip side, if an accident happened while Charlie was at the cleaners’, his attorney could argue that he was completing a task required by his boss, which would make him eligible for workers’ compensation.
These are hypotheticals, but they are all very realistic situations that could happen. The reason is that while personal injury lawsuits focus on how an injury happened, workers’ comp claims are more dependent on where an injury happened.
You don’t need to prove fault or negligence to receive Kansas workers’ compensation benefits.
You need to prove:
- The injury resulted from an accident or incident that happened at your workplace. Even if it’s unrelated to your job function (like Delores tripping over her own bag), if it happened at work, it should be covered by workers’ comp; or
- The injury resulted from an accident that happened off-site but while you were engaged in duties related to your job (Donna at the print shop); or
- The injury, illness or disease developed over time as the result of the environment or conditions at work (Margaret’s asbestos exposure, for instance); or
- The injury arose gradually from your performing tasks for your job (similar to Jed’s lifting luggage or other physical strain from his work). This could be repetitive motion injuries like chopping food or operating equipment, lifting or other types of strain.
You also need to prove that the injury cost you money, either for medical treatment or lost wages from time out of work.
Kansas workers’ compensation benefits
You can receive coverage for any medical treatment that is reasonably necessary for the qualifying condition. Kansas workers’ compensation law permits your employer to choose the treating physician but you may apply to the Director of Workers’ Compensation at the Kansas Department of Labor if you prefer to change your doctor. You can also receive mileage reimbursement if you need to see a doctor or seek treatment that is more than five miles away round-trip. You can also be compensated for costs of hired transportation (i.e. public transportation or ride services).
You can receive payment for your first week off from work retroactively if your disability prevents you from working for three consecutive weeks. You can receive ⅔ of your gross average weekly wage, subject to a state-mandated maximum that changes each year (you can see the current maximum by visiting the Kansas Department of Labor website).
You receive the lesser of either ⅔ of your gross average weekly wage or the state maximum on the date of your injury until your doctor permits you to return to work. These payments may not exceed $155,000 for permanent total disability or $130,000 for permanent partial or temporary disability. The maximum for permanent partial disability for functional impairment is $75,000.
Temporary total disability
The employee is unable to perform any type of job. Benefits are paid for the full time they are unable to work. Benefits are discontinued if the doctor releases the employee to work.
Permanent total disability
The employee is permanently unable to do any type of work. This classification requires expert testimony for proof.
Permanent partial scheduled disability
The employee suffers complete or partial loss of a body part. Compensation is provided for the a percentage of the scheduled number of weeks, subtracting the temporary total disability compensation.
Permanent partial general disability
The employee has permanent partial disability that is not covered by the schedule, or where the injury results in the loss of both shoulders, arms, legs, feet or eyes.
This is payable as a percentage of functional impairment or as a work disability if the impairment is more than 7.5% of the whole body and the employee has suffered at least 10% post-injury wage loss from the work injury.
If an employee dies as a result of injury or illness at work, their whole or partial dependents or heirs may recover benefits including burial expenses of to $10,000 and court-appointed conservator costs up to $2,500.
When to contact a Kansas workers’ compensation lawyer
If you suffered a minor injury, received compensation to cover your expenses and didn’t need time off from work to recover, you likely don’t need a lawyer.
But it’s good to note that a workers’ compensation insurance company is really no different than any other type of insurance—the company makes a profit when it pays out less in benefits than it earns in premiums. That means the insurer’s objective is to pay out as little as you are willing to accept for your injury.
If you’re looking at long-term or future medical treatment for the injury, or if you’re not sure when you will be able to return to work at the same wage as you had before the injury, it’s important to consult an attorney for assistance.
Your lawyer will consult with medical and financial experts to make sure they know exactly what your future costs will be—because once you settle for a specific amount of workers’ compensation, you can’t go back for more. Then, they will negotiate with the insurer to make sure you’re receiving the fair amount to which you’re entitled.
In addition, if the workers’ comp insurer determines that your injury wasn’t work-related or isn’t covered, your lawyer will work to provide the evidence they need in order to decide in your favor.
The basis for personal injury law is fairly straightforward:
If you're injured because of someone's negligence, then you're entitled to recover for your financial losses related to the injury.
The premise for the workers' compensation system is similar:
Your employer is required to have specific insurance that provides benefits if you're injured at work.