Episode 15: Louisville workers’ compensation attorney Scott Scheynost is going to explain an interesting, and important, right injured workers’ have under the Kentucky workers’ compensation laws. He’ll speak about reopening your workers’ compensation claim. This may enable an injured worker to receive more money, as part or his/her workers’ comp benefits.
The 4-Year Window
Kentucky has a 4-year window, which must be considered if you are interested in reopening your workers’ compensation claim. This window begins from the date the claim was settled or the award of benefits from the judge. If your condition significantly worsens, you may be eligible to get more money. The increase would be for being off work, for TTD benefits and also for an increase in your permanent impairment rating.
This is particularly important if your medical condition gets worse over time.
Knee Injuries Often Qualify for a Reopening
Knee injuries, such as a torn ACL or other damage can worsen with time. Initially the impairment rating is fairly low. However, the injury and surgery can accelerate the development of arthritis. This may lead to a knee replacement. Because the original injury was work-related, the subsequent worsening is also considered to be related to the injury.
Your Impairment Rating
A permanent injury, under Kentucky workers’ comp, results in the assigning of an impairment rating for that individual. This can be a subjective rating assigned by a doctor after an exam. Generally, this takes place after the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI). The impairment rating is a critical factor in the determination of your workers’ comp benefits.
The rating can be determined in a number of ways, depending upon the part of the body that is affected by the injury. For instance, loss of strength or a decrease in the range of motion are often common, permanent impairments.
Once you’ve resolved your initial workers’ comp claim, you may still need additional medical treatment. Continuing with the knee injury example, over time the arthritis may require a total knee replacement. That replacement may actually increase your impairment rating from that which was considered as part of your original benefits settlement (i.e. the ACL tear).
Don’t Run Out of Time
Kentucky workers’ compensation benefits only last for a certain amount of time. That clock generally starts from the date of injury. The typical workers’ compensation claim is eligible to receive 425 weeks of benefits (just over 8 years). This is not to be confused with the current possibility of qualifying for lifetime medical. We’re focusing strictly on the workers’ compensation benefits.
If your condition worsens, you’ll want to reopen your claim as soon as possible to get the maximum benefit from the remaining workers compensation benefits. You need to consult an experienced, Kentucky workers’ comp attorney. The longer you wait, the more money you may be leaving on the table.
The Right to Medical Expenses
Scott explains that people often get confused by the right to medical expenses. The right to reopen and the right to medical expenses are separate issues. In Kentucky, you may be able to get lifetime medical expense coverage, based on your workers’ comp settlement. While the surgery may be covered, the right to an increase in benefits is different. That’s where the 4-year window comes into play.
Common Issues Qualifying for a Reopening
- Knee surgery (i.e. ACL surgery leading to knee replacement)
- Back surgery (i.e. Discectomy later leading to a back fusion)
- Not being able to return to your old job after a later surgery
- Plant closure can actually qualify you to reopen because you can return to your job
Filing a Motion to Reopen Your Claim
It’s possible to do this on your own, but given the complexity of the process, Scott recommends letting a Kentucky workers’ compensation attorney handle this for you. The first step is determining whether your situation qualifies. Then, all of the relevant documents (including medical records) will need to be assembled. Finally, the motion will need to be filed.
In Kentucky, attorney fees are capped, regardless of the amount of benefits the attorney secures for his/her client. Unlike a personal injury claim (usually 1/3 of the total settlement or verdict), a workers’ compensation lawyer’s fees are much more limited in Kentucky.
If someone decides to reopen a claim, it’s considered a new claim. An attorney is eligible to receive fees for handling this action. The same caps apply.
Louisville attorney Scott Scheynost offers free consultations for worker’s compensation claims. He handles workers’ comp claims on a contingency fee basis. This means he will advance all of the fees and expenses related to filing and pursuing your claim. If he’s successful with your claim, his fees are taken out of the overall settlement. The attorney would also be eligible to recoup the case fees and expenses. The injured worker does not pay out-of-pocket expenses and is not charged on an hourly basis.
What If another Attorney Handle My Original Claim?
Over the years, Scott has handled reopenings for people when their original attorney retired, passed away or for some other reason is no longer handling workers’ comp cases. You aren’t required to use the same attorney when reopening your workers’ compensation claim. He states he feels it’s best to use the original attorney, if possible, but you don’t have to do it.
It Cost You Nothing to Speak with Scott
Contact Scott Scheynost at (502) 937-5287. This podcast is meant to provide information and is not legal advice. Scott’s principal office is located at 7619 Dixie Highway, Louisville, KY 40258. Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson. This is an advertisement.