Lawmakers Debate Workers’ Compensation Reform
So far, it’s been a rather bumpy ride for House Bill 296, as the workers’ comp legislation is currently in a Senate committee.
Many of the proposed changes are largely technical. For example, in most cases, the bill would cut off medical benefits when the victims reach age 70 or have collected benefits for four years; the current system uses Social Security eligibility as a cutoff. Other alterations, such as the creation of a workers’ comp drug formulary, bring Kentucky’s system more in line with some neighboring states. There are some proposed procedural changes as well, including a provision that would limit the time victims have to file for reconsideration.
Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Frankfort) proposed several successful amendments, including one that increased the average weekly wage and one that extended medical benefits to permanently disabled victims.
Workers’ Comp Coverage
A little over a hundred years ago, workers agreed to give up their rights to sue for damages in civil court if employers provided an accessible benefits scheme outside the court system. Today, workers’ compensation is employer-paid, no-fault insurance that pays benefits in the event of a workplace injury. Coverage applies to both:
- Trauma injuries, such as falls or motor vehicle crashes, and
- Occupational diseases, such as hearing loss or repetitive stress disorder.
In many cases, victims with occupational diseases who have pre-existing conditions are still entitled to full workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ Comp Process
Over the years, benefits have decreased substantially as insurance company lawyers have become moretenacious in fighting claims. The net result is that injured workers must fight harder for a smaller piece of the pie, so an aggressive attorney is pretty well a must-have in these cases.
In many ways, the system itself is designed to deny fair compensation to workers. At the initial evaluation stage, which normally consists of a paper review of the medical records, nearly all claims are denied. Then, in many areas, claimants must wait several months for a review hearing. Essentially, the insurance company hopes that injured victims will either abandon their claims out of frustration or settle them for less than full value.
At the administrative review hearing, an attorney may intriduce evidence, cross-examine witnesses, make legal arguments, and basically give victims a change to obtain fair compensation for their injuries.
There are significant cash benefits available to injured Kentucky workers, but the insurance company does not simply give these benefits away. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer in Leitchfield, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. Our main office is conveniently located in Brownsville.