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Changes To Workers’ Compensation Laws

There have been several changes to the Kentucky workers’ compensation laws and some of the rules concerning benefits.

House Bill 2 (HB2), signed by Gov. Bevin on March 30, 2018, adds several clarifications, changes and limitations on the previous workers’ compensation rules.

Click on the links below to learn more about some of the key changes that went into effect this year:

Age for end of benefits

Injury as a result of voluntary intoxication

Change in attorney fee caps

Cumulative trauma injuries and illnesses

Ability to reopen a claim

Interest due on past-due benefit payments

Utilization review by a workers’ comp carrier

Cost of medical records

Treatment guidelines

Permanent injury compensation

Age For End Of Benefits

Receiving disability benefits can be very helpful for workers who have been injured as well as their spouses and dependents. Those benefits do eventually come to an end.

As a result of the new legislation, benefits now terminate at age 70 or four years after the date of injury or last date of exposure, whichever is later.

This section of the change is retroactive and applies to all pending cases.

Injury As A Result Of Voluntary Intoxication

Before this bill passed, it was up to your employer to prove that intoxication was the proximate cause of a work-related injury. While it is still the case that employees are not entitled to compensation if it was a result of voluntary intoxication, the method of proof has changed.

Now, if intoxication is proven by a blood test, any work-related injury while intoxicated is presumed to be the result of the intoxication.

Change In Attorney Fee Caps

Prior to the change in legislation, there was a cap of $12,000 for attorney fees with a graduated scale for the plaintiff’s attorney.

There is still a cap on attorney fees for attorneys on both sides of a workers’ compensation claim with a graduated scale for the plaintiff’s attorney, but the cap is now $18,000.

The scale has also changed. The plaintiff’s lawyer can now collect 20 percent of the first $25,000 (the same as before), 15 percent of the next $25,000 (up from $10,000 before) and 10 percent of the remainder (up from 5 percent before), not to go over $18,000.

This change applies to all contracts entered into after July 14, 2018.

Cumulative Trauma Injuries And Illnesses

Cumulative trauma injuries and illnesses are those that happened over time. This could include injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs after a long period of time doing the same movements.

Previously, workers’ compensation laws required workers to give notice to their employer as soon as is practical after they know about the injury and within two years from the date of the injury.

HB2 has changed the notice requirement. Now, the worker must provide notice within two years from the date a physician tells them that their cumulative injury is work related. Since cumulative injuries happen over time, it can be difficult for an employee to know the impact and cause of a cumulative injury.

The worker must also file their claim within five years of the date of the last exposure to the trauma. This means the last time the employee did the activity that caused the injury or was exposed to the substance that made them sick.

This section applies retroactively.

Ability To Reopen A Claim

This section limits your ability to reopen a claim. While, formerly, it was possible to reopen a claim up to four years after the last order given by an administrative law judge, you are now limited to four years from the finality of the original award or order granting or denying benefits.

This means that even if there are subsequent orders, if, later, you have the need to reopen the claim, you are limited to four years from the original award or order, not the last subsequent order.

This change applies retroactively.

Interest Due On Past-Due Benefit Payments

There is now a new condition placed on receiving interest for past-due benefit payments. Interest payments will not be made if an administrative law judge finds that the employee is the cause for a delay in delivery of benefits.

The interest rate, change in 2017, is now 6 percent.

For any past-due benefits payments that were owed before June 29, 2017, the interest rate is 12 percent.

Utilization Review By A Workers’ Comp Carrier

A utilization review gives the workers’ compensation insurance company a chance to look over the request for medical treatment. This allows them to confirm that the benefits they are paying are consistent with the treatment that is being provided.

Under the revised rules, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier paying the claim can now waive a utilization review under one of two conditions: If they agree that your recommended treatment is medically necessary or if you do not elect to go ahead with the recommended treatment.

This change applies retroactively.

Cost Of Medical Records

Prior to this legislation, you or your attorney could be charged up to 50 cents per page for your medical records. Now, you or your attorney can get a free copy of your records.

This change applies retroactively.

Treatment Guidelines

Before this legislation passed, you would work with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your work-related injury. If the workers’ compensation insurance carrier disagreed, they could challenge the treatment plan and have an administrative law judge decide.

Now, the commissioner is required to implement treatment guidelines and a prescription formulary to determine the best course of treatment for the injury.

This change is effective retroactively and applies to all cases regardless of the date of the injury.

Permanent Injury Compensation

In the event of a permanent injury, you used to be able to receive reasonable and necessary treatment for your work-related injuries for the rest of your life. There were no time limitations on how long that lasted and no requirements to keep the benefits in place.

Now, reasonable and necessary treatment will be provided for 15 years after the injury. If, after 15 years, you still require medical treatment, you must file an application to demonstrate that you still need to receive treatment. The application must be filed at least 75 days before the end of the 15-year term or you will risk losing benefits. If an administrative law judge determines treatment is necessary, then the benefits can continue as before. If not, benefits will terminate after 15 years.

There are still lifetime benefits available if you are in one of the below two categories:

  • If you are permanently totally disabled.
  • If you are partially disabled and suffered an amputation or partial amputation of the arm, hand, leg, foot, loss of hearing, loss of an eye or tooth, or if you have permanent paralysis.

If you are in either of those categories, you qualify for lifetime benefits with no need for reapplication.

This applies for those who were injured after July 14, 2018.

Dedicated Help With Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

When you’re injured and looking for a way to pay your medical bills, the last thing you want to try to figure out is complicated legislation. That’s why we have flexible appointments available to help you work through your injury claim. We also know that when you’re injured, you may not be able to come to us.

Call Shumate, Flaherty, Eubanks & Baechtold in Richmond today at 859-353-0878 to schedule an appointment. You can also email us to get started.