New ALJs May Reduce Workers’ Comp Logjam
A Franklin County Circuit judge, who Governor Matt Bevin derided as a “political hack,” cleared the way for six new administrative law judges to being hearing workers’ compensation cases in Kentucky.
Since he took office in December 2015, the GOP governor and Judge Phillip Shepherd have repeatedly butted heads over state government restructuring. In June 2016, Gov. Bevin dissolved the seven-member Workers’ Compensation Nominating Commission and replaced it with a five-member commission. In apparent protest, Judge Shepherd did not allow the newly-appointed ALJs to join the other eleven, and the resulting backlog quickly grew to about 400 cases. Making matters worse, four Commission members resigned and Gov. Bevin refused to appoint replacements until the disputed ALJs took office. The governor’s office welcomed Judge Shepherd’s ruling in a statement, but the Kentucky AFL-CIO is still reviewing the decision.
Gov. Bevin and Judge Shepherd are still sparring over other issues, such as the University of Louisville’s board of trustees.
Workers’ Compensation System
The first workers’ compensation laws appeared a little over a hundred years ago, as workers collectively gave up their rights to obtain compensation for their job injuries in court in exchange for a no-fault insurance system that expedited claims for economic losses.
Over the decades, more states adopted such systems. As the movement grew, workers’ compensation systems started to cover more injuries, including both:
- Occupational diseases, like repetitive stress disorder, and
- Trauma injuries, like slip-and-fall injuries.
To obtain money, injured workers need only prove that the injury either occurred at work or was substantially aggravated by job activities. In Kentucky, some injured workers may choose their own doctors.
On the whole, Kentucky has one of the lowest workers’ compensation reimbursement rates in the United States, so it is important to have an aggressive attorney that helps workers get a fair-sized piece of a shrinking pie.
Initially, insurance company adjusters almost always deny workers’ claims, at least in part. However, at the appeal level, attorneys can present evidence, make arguments, and cross-examine witnesses, so victims have a much better chance of obtaining maximum benefits. These benefits usually include two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage until the injury is completely healed and the victim is cleared to return to full duty, as well as all medical bills.
In some cases, injured workers can sue outside workers’ compensation and obtain additional noneconomic damages; for example, many workplace injuries involve defective products or even an employer’s intentional neglect of a known safety hazard.
Injured workers can get money that helps them return to work as quickly as possible. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Bowling Green, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. We do not charge upfront legal fees in workers’ compensation cases.