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2018 KENTUCKY LEGISLATURE CHANGES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT

What Happened?

On March 27, 2018, the Kentucky Legislature changed the Commonwealth’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Almost all changes benefitted employers, by reducing the amount of money they have to pay for disability benefits and medical expenses. The Governor signed the bill on March 30, 2018. But, some parts of it make it retroactive to claims that occurred before it was signed.

What are the changes?

Changes include: limiting money for total disability; restricting future medical benefits; restricting how a doctor treats an injured worker; shortening the time a claim for carpal tunnel (or other cumulative traumas) can be filed; shortening the time an employee can reopen their claim; adding restrictions to obtaining benefits for hearing loss from work; adding restrictions that prevent employees who fail a drug test (even if it is unrelated to the injury) from getting benefits; increasing the money employers can recover from third parties responsible for an employee’s injury and decreasing the amount the employee will receive; reducing money for small claims paid in a lump sum; adding restrictions to black lung benefits (that will probably keep anyone from receiving black lung benefits); increasing attorney fees; and preventing employers from being responsible for paying interest on past due benefits if it was the employee’s fault. The legislature did increase the money a high wage earner can receive.

For a full copy of the text of the bill, visit this page:

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/18RS/HB2/bill.pdf

How does this impact injured employees?

Now injured workers will have a harder time getting fewer benefits. Some parts of the bill seem clearly unconstitutional, such as provisions that are retroactive for injuries that occurred before the bill was passed. This means there will be litigation over the validity of the bill for several years. This is also helpful to employers and insurance carriers that have the resources to wait, unlike injured workers that need their money now to pay rent. In summary, employers asked the legislature to reduce benefits to save them money, and the legislature agreed to help them.