WASHINGTON, D.C., April 20, 2011 – The American Insurance Association (AIA) today praised Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and leadership in the legislature for spearheading workers’ compensation reform efforts during the 2011 legislative session. Following several months of negotiations between business and labor, the governor signed HB 2134 into law on Monday. The bill was passed unanimously by both the Kansas House and Senate on April 1.
“The reforms contained within this bill represent hard fought compromise that will be beneficial to Kansas’ workers’ compensation system, said Bruce Wood, AIA associate general counsel and director, workers’ compensation “Legislative leadership and Governor Brownback are to be commended for seeing this process through.”
HB 2134 tightens compensability and therefore will require a stronger link between work and the injury to qualify for benefits, a step other states have taken to address injuries where work causation is especially difficult to ascertain with reasonable certainty. In addition, the legislation overturns court decisions that had eliminated an employee’s obligation to seek work and recognizes an employee’s preexistent condition in establishing the employer’s obligation to pay benefits.
The new law also increases the financial caps on payouts for injury or death. The payout for a worker who becomes totally or permanently disabled from a job-related accident will increase by $30,000 to a maximum of $155,000. In addition, the maximum benefit increases from $50,000 to $300,000 for an employee who is killed while on the job. Finally, employees who fail to immediately notify their employers of workplace injuries will now be required to explain the nature of the reporting delay in more detail.
“This law is an important and over-due updating of Kansas’ workers’ compensation act, last amended in any significant way in 1993,” said Wood. ”Case law impeding sound disability management has now been overturned and employers’ obligations better defined, while benefits have been improved. It represents a good compromise.”
The bill takes effect on May 15.