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What happens when a Kentucky employee sustains a job-related injury?
Kentucky’s Workers’ Compensation laws require the employer to provide medical treatment, lost wages, and other benefits. You may also be entitled to training for other jobs. These benefits can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of your injury.
This area of the law can be complicated. For example, if your injury is a result of your employer’s violation of a safety regulation, your compensation can be increased. Knowing your rights is crucial to getting the benefits you deserve.
Who Is Covered
Nearly all Kentucky employees are covered by the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Law.
This includes part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees, minors, and state and local government workers. Workers on probation before being formally hired, as well as workers in business with only one employee, are eligible for compensation benefits. In some cases, independent contractors may also be eligible.
Certain workers are excluded from coverage, including agricultural workers, domestic workers, and people who work less than 20 days at another’s home.
Note that other maritime workers, railroad workers, Federal employees, and employees of some Federal contractors are, in most cases, covered by other Federal workers’ compensation laws.
Almost every physical injury that occurs during work is covered by the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Law. In addition to the obvious types of injuries, such as losing a finger in a paper machine or suffering a head injury from a falling pallet, this includes injuries that develop over long periods of time because of repetitive motion, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and degenerative disc disease.
Injuries caused by exposure to chemicals, coal dust, or asbestos are also covered. Ongoing care, such as physical therapy or multiple surgeries, may also be covered.
Notifying Your Employer
You should give notice to your employer of the injury as soon as possible. The employee generally has the right to choose the medical provider. If the employer has a “managed care” plan for workers’ compensation injuries, the employee must select one of the providers in that plan.
Medical Expenses Covered by the Law
Employers must pay all medical expenses reasonably related to the “cure and relief of the injury.” Medical expenses include doctors’ fees, prescription expenses, hospital bills, nursing treatment, tests (such as x-rays and MRIs), durable medical equipment, braces, travel expenses, and many other items. In Kentucky, work-related medical expenses can be payable for life. The employee is not required to make co-payments or pay deductibles for medical treatment obtained in Kentucky. Medical expenses are required to be paid within 30 days of receipt by the employer.
Under Kentucky law, employees can suffer a temporary partial disability, a temporary total disability, a permanent partial disability, or a permanent total disability.
Temporary Partial or Temporary Total Disability Benefits
If you suffer an injury that causes you to take a short period of time off of work, you should qualify for either Temporary Partial or Temporary Total Disability. In Kentucky, this is calculated as either two-thirds of your weekly earnings, or two-thirds of the state’s average weekly wage, whichever is lower. For hourly employees, overtime is considered.
You must be off work for at least seven days before Temporary Benefits can be paid. If you are off work for at least 14 days, Temporary Benefits are paid from the first day off work. Your recovery will be monitored by your doctor. Once it has been determined that you have reached your maximum possible recovery, Temporary Benefits will end.
Permanent Partial Disability
To be entitled to a Permanent Partial Disability (“PPD”) award, you must have a permanent impairment as a result of your injury. In Kentucky, the amount and length of time of Permanent Disability Benefits depend on:
- The impairment rating assigned by a medical expert;
- Restrictions on your physical activities;
- Your average weekly wage at the time of the injury and at return to work;
- Your age, and
- Your educational level.
If your injury initially resulted in the award of PPD benefits, you are still entitled to compensation in Kentucky even if you are eventually able to return to work. However, if you are unable to return to the same type of work you were doing previously while making the same amount of money, your PPD award will be tripled.
These awards are typically paid out over a 425-week period, though they may be extended to 520 weeks. These benefits terminate at the age of 70 regardless of how many weeks are remaining.
Permanent Total Disability
If your work injury or illness results in consequences so severe that you can no longer keep your old job or get a new one, you will qualify for Permanent Total Disability (PTD). Your PTD compensation is two-thirds of your weekly earnings or two-thirds of Kentucky’s average weekly wage, whichever is lower.
You will receive PTD until the age of 70.
Lump Sum Settlement
If the insurance company has accepted your claim and is voluntarily paying benefits, you can request payment in a lump sum, which essentially functions as an advance on your benefits. In this situation, your weekly benefits will be added up and then reduced by 1% to bring them to their present value.
The workers’ compensation system was originally structured to provide prompt and fair compensation to injured workers. But it now often seems to work for the benefit of employers and insurers. Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will help you get the compensation you deserve from a workplace injury.