Yesterday Governor Brownback signed into law the Kansas Workers Compensation Reform Act. This law, which will take effect on May 15, 2011, marks the most-significant overhaul of the Kansas workers comp system since 1993.
The new law, which has, as they say, a little something for everyone, is the product of negotiations between labor and business interests. Both the Kansas AFL-CIO and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce supported the bill, and both the Senate and House passed it unanimously.
So what are the major changes that have everyone so giddy? As Governor Brownback put it, the new law is intended to provide “higher benefits for people with significant, legitimate claims,” while resulting in “less frivolous claims within this system."
Higher Benefit Caps. The new law increases the maximum benefits payable for disabling injuries. For example, the cap on permanent partial disability was raised from $100,000 to $130,000, the cap on permanent total disability went from $125,000 to $155,000, and the death benefit cap increased from $250,000 to $300,000.
Bilateral Injuries. The new law clarifies that “bilateral injuries” (shoulder, arm, or hand combined with other shoulder, arm, or hand; or leg or foot combined with other leg or foot) are treated as a "general bodily injuries," rather than two “scheduled” injuries. General bodily injuries typically result in higher disability awards than two separate injuries to the affected limbs. This provision reverses a recent ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court.