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2015 Kansas Workers Compensation Law Update

NEW – Kansas Workers Compensation Claim Triage.

What Is Kansas Work Comp Claim Triage?

  • Kansas work comp claim triage is a new proactive approach for employers, carriers and TPAs in Kansas to act immediately upon receipt of notice of a work injury to utilize 2011 Kansas reform laws more effectively and to identify “red flag” claims for enhanced attention and action.
  • There are actions Kansas employers, carriers and TPAs can proactively take to utilize and apply 2011 reform law provisions which are not available in other states. Kansas employers need to know about these proactive actions available to them and they need a place to go for a roadmap of how to proactively benefit from these new law opportunities.

Where Can I Get Claim Triage Help In Kansas?

  • On your PC, tablet or smartphone, go to www.wctriage.com
  • Contact Kim Martens at martens@hitefanning.com for the access code password
  • Use the access code password to gain access to the KS WC Claim Triage Web App

2/1/2015 Start to the 2015 Kansas Legislative Session.

Anticipated Changes:
There is only one substantive workers compensation change currently rumored that the 2015 Kansas legislature might consider. There is a concern, particularly among claimant bar members that the new 1/1/2015 rule that all new injuries by accident and repetitive trauma, and occupational disease claims are now rated and governed by the American Medical Association, Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Sixth Ed. (previously Fourth Ed. controlled) will significantly lower injured worker impairment ratings and present difficulty for impaired and disabled workers to overcome the work disability thresholds of “greater than 7.5%” and “at least 10%” in cases where there is a preexisting impairment. Stay tuned for more information on this as the 2015 session progresses because anything is possible.

Final Results of the 2014 Kansas Legislative Session.

Lowered Proof Threshold For Certain Public Safety Personnel:
The traditional “heart amendment” in Kansas eliminated the recovery of workers compensation benefits by workers afflicted with a work-related coronary or coronary artery disease or cerebrovascular disease to only situations where the work necessary to precipitate the disability was more than the employees’ usual work in the course of the employee’s regular employment.

That compensability limitation for all Kansas workers was lessened effective July 1, 2014, for firefighters and law enforcement officers where the injury can be identified and was caused by a specific event and the coronary or cerebrovascular injury occurred within 24 hours of a specific event, and the specific event was the prevailing factor cause of the injury.

Final Results of the 2013 Kansas Legislative Session.

In SB 187, the 2013 Kansas legislature accomplished passage of some additional improvements to the Kansas workers compensation statutes for employers, on top of the previously favorable 2011 reform laws:

Nominating Committee:
Changes the makeup of the nominating committee for administrative law judges and the appeals board member positions from two entities (Kansas Chamber and AFL-CIO) to seven (KSIA, Kansas Chamber, National Federation of Independent Business, AFL-CIO, a public employee rep, the Society for Human Resource Management, and a designee of the Secretary of Labor). Recommendations require a 2/3 majority of this newly comprised nominating committee. The amendments also increase the pay of administrative law judges to a level equal to 85% of a state district court judge.

AMA Guides Sixth Edition:
Changes the requirement of use of AMA Guides 4th Edition to AMA Guides 6th Edition for dates of injury on and after January 1, 2015. That means that for all injuries occurring prior to January 1, 2015, the AMA Guides 4th Edition is still applicable. Obviously, this will require a ramp up educational period for everyone in the process, particularly the doctors; hence the law allows an educational period which mandates now that the change will not occur until on an after January 1, 2015.

Timely Notice Of Injury By Accident And Repetitive Trauma Requirement Shortened:
The 2011 pro-employer amendments change the timely notice requirement to 30 days from the date of the accident or repetitive trauma or within 20 days of the last date worked in the event the employee no longer works for the employer. That 30 day/20 day rule has now been changed to a 20 day/10 day rule. The new shorted timely notice requirement is effective for the date of injury claims occurring on or after April 25, 2013.

Technical Change To The Procedure To Appeal An ALJ Refusal To Recuse Himself/ Herself:
A common sense change was made in the procedure to appeal an ALJ’s refusal to recuse themselves.

Statute Of Limitation Tolling Provision Applicable To Employers Who Fail To File Accident Reports Was Removed:
The provision tolling any time limitation where the employer failed to file an accident report with the Division of Workers Compensation after being given notice of a work injury, was removed.

New Law Case Update.

Kansas’ 2011 pro-employer reform laws continue to play out favorably for employers in 2013, 20114 and 2015 with multiple favorable Appeals Board decisions received enforcing the reform law provisions. Previous Kansas news updates included summaries of employer favorable Appeals Board decisions in Shepard v. Big Lakes Development Center, Inc. Docket No. 1,058,184, (April 2012 prevailing factor cause defense) and Price v. Robert Todd Baker d/b/a Sunshine Lawn & Tree Service , Docket No. 1,058,417 (February, 2012 reckless violation of a safety rule defense). A brief sampling of additional more recent Appeals Board decisions favorably enforcing the Kansas reform laws include for employers include the following cases:

Reduce Awards And Settlements With New Preexisting Impairment Offset Rule:
In Mark Jackson v. Amsted Rail Co. Inc., Docket #1,058,952 (September 2013), the Appeals Board affirmed the Administrative Law Judge in applying the new preexisting impairment offset which had the effect of reducing the worker’s functional award from $24,292.35 to $2,430.90. Action Alert: It is critical in every claim being considered for settlement now, that the employer, carrier and/or TPA have defense counsel research and analyze claimant’s prior award history, as numerous claims are now being overpaid because of a failure to proactively apply this new law provision.

Simple Aggravations Of Preexisting Conditions No Longer Compensable Work Injuries: In Craig v. U.S.D. 465, Docket No. 1,059,210 (August 2012) the Appeals Board denied compensation for a simple work aggravation of a preexisting degenerative condition when a maintenance and custodian worker heard a pop in his shoulder and felt a sharp pain in his left wrist. The Appeals Board found that the work activity may have caused his preexisting degenerative condition to become symptomatic, but that no longer qualifies as a compensable work accidental injury.

Updated Kansas Division of Workers Compensation Web Page:

http://www.dol.ks.gov/WorkComp/Default.aspx

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