We had previously written about the drastic changes in the Kansas workers' compensation. The legislature, with the help of insurance carriers and the Chamber of Commerce, had changed the way permanent partial disability benefits were to be calculated. The new method, under the Sixth Edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, results in significantly reduced benefits to the injured worker and a much more narrow range that can be argued over. This has drastically reduced the ability to contest claims through the legal system with, at times, devastating effects on injured workers.
The previous method of calculating benefits, under the Fourth Edition, was much more fair and representative of the disability a work accident can cause. This at least created the impression that a fair trade-off was being provided since injured workers are not able to sue their employers under personal injury law for accidents caused by the employer's negligence. With such reduced disability benefits now being available under the new system and, in some cases, no benefits at all for even a new and distinct injury, the argument is that this trade-off no longer exists.
A claim has recently made its way through the workers' compensation system where the Board of Appeals has stated its belief that the Sixth Edition violates the Kansas Constitution. While the Board does not have the authority to strike down a law, this paves the way for the case to move up to the appellate court level. The hope is that the Kansas Supreme Court will transfer the matter directly up to the top to give a final and controlling ruling. If so, and if they agree that getting nothing for something violates the State Constitution, things could be changing in Kansas relatively soon.
What this means for people injured in Kansas currently is that they may want to wait on accepting any low-ball settlement offer that may be made in their claims. Changes could be coming soon that could significantly impact the benefits that will have to be paid. A little bit if justice may be right around the corner.