June 06, 2024

Changes Coming to Kansas Workers’ Compensation

June 06, 2024

On May 29, 2024, Governor Laura Kelly signed SB 430 into law.  This law is the first major workers’ compensation reform in Kansas for almost a decade and will take effect on July 1, 2024.  The law will impact Kansas workers’ compensation claims in several notable aspects, including, but not limited to:

Cap Increases:

  • The maximum death benefit amount increases from $300,000.00 to $500,000.00;
  • The maximum permanent total disability benefit amount increases from $150,000.00 to $400,000.00;
  • The maximum permanent partial impairment amount will increase from $75,000.00 to $100,000.00;
  • These benefit caps are fixed until 2027, after which a cost-of-living adjustment will begin, potentially raising the maximum benefit amount on a yearly basis.

More Efficient Settlement Procedure:

  • Settlement hearings are no longer required if the employee is represented by counsel; and
  • The Administrative Law Judge is given five days from receipt of the signed stipulation to approve the settlement terms. These changes should allow for a faster and more efficient settlement process in most cases.

Work Disability:

  • The maximum work disability award amount will increase from $130,000.00 to $225,000.00. This will apply to a case where a treating physician has imposed a permanent restriction, resulting in a reduction in an injured worker’s earning capacity;
  • Along with the maximum work disability award increase, the legislature increased the minimum threshold permanent partial impairment rating for work disability from 7.5% to 10% of the whole person. Additionally, the legislature increased the threshold from 10% to 15% of the whole person, when the injury is combined with a preexisting impairment.

Preliminary Hearings:

  • Minimum notice is expanded from 7 to 20 days. This will allow employers to have additional time to respond to investigate and respond to allegations and notices of intent.

Notice of Injury:

  • The injured worker now has 30 days to report an accident to their employer, an increase from 20 days. In practice, a late notice defense must still be coupled with evidence that the employer was prejudiced by a late report of injury.

Unauthorized Medical:

  • The allowance per case for claimant’s unauthorized medical evaluation and treatment, will increase from $500.00 to $800.00.

Future Medical:

  • The authorized treating physician’s opinion as to the need for future medical treatment is presumed determinative on the issue of future medical care;
  • This presumption can only be overcome with clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

Court Ordered IME (“COIME”):

  • Only one COIME can be appointed per case absent agreement of the parties. If the ALJ does order a COIME, the COIME must be done prior to the Prehearing Settlement Conference. Additionally, the COIME may not be used for the purposes of a rating, permanent restrictions, permanent partial disability, job task loss, wage loss, or permanent total disability. These changes will apparently diminish the impact of a COIME report in many cases;
  • In practice it would seem that some reasons for use of a COIME going forward, may be to address the need for future medical, causation, as well as maximum medical improvement.

The provisions noted above are not the only changes to workers’ compensation in Kansas, but represent some of the most significant changes.

If you have any questions on this law and the potential impact on your business, or would like to request a training on these changes, please contact any attorney at Wiedner and McAuliffe by email or phone at 312-855-1105.