Am I Eligible for Kansas Workers Compensation Benefits If I Was Negligent?

Kansas workers compensation attorney Michael R. Lawless receives many inquiries from injured employees regarding their rights to recover financial compensation when their own conduct contributes to their injuries.  Tragically, there are some workers that simply presume that they cannot be compensated for injuries caused by their own negligence while working for their employer.  This assumption is based on a misunderstanding of the basic “no fault” premise of the workers compensation system.  An employee injured on the job in Kansas can generally recover for injuries incurred in the scope of employment even if the employee’s own conduct contributed to the injuries.

The Kansas workers compensation system is designed to provide an efficient mechanism for employees to obtain medical treatment, income replacement and compensation for permanent disability, which may include a lump sum payout.  While the “no fault” nature of workers compensation insurance is designed to eliminate the complexity and delay of litigation, it typically provides far more limited forms of compensation than the damages that are generally available in a personal injury lawsuit.

When an injury victim fails to exercise reasonable care to prevent self-injury, this is referred to as comparative negligence under Kansas personal injury law.  Comparative negligence by an injury victim will reduce damages that may be recovered in a personal injury action and even bar recovery entirely where the injury victim bears a greater degree of fault than the defendant(s).  However, there is no such reduction of recovery when pursuing a workers compensation claim based on an employee’s negligence subject to limited exceptions.

There are a limited number of situations in which an employee’s conduct in contributing to an injury may negate the employee’s right to benefits under an employer’s workers compensation insurance, such as:

  • Injuries where alcohol, narcotic or prescription drug impairment contributes to the injury
  • The employee intentionally causes his or her own injury
  • Willful refusal to use safety equipment required by statute
  • Reckless violation of employer safety regulations/rules
  • Willful decision not to use reasonable safety guards provided by the employer
  • Injuries caused by fighting or horseplay with a co-worker

While these conditions may seem straightforward, disputes can arise about whether these exceptions apply to a particular workers compensation claim.  A physical fight with a co-worker may be covered, for example, if the fight arises out of an employment related dispute.  However, a fight at the worksite related to a personal dispute between co-workers generally will not be covered by workers compensation.

If you or someone close to you has suffered a work-related injury, experienced Kansas workers compensation lawyer Michael R. Lawless can help you pursue medical treatment, lost income and benefits for permanent disability.  Our Lenexa, KS injury law firm may also be able to assist you in pursuing a civil lawsuit for damages against a third party that contributed to your injuries so call us toll free at 1-800-734-3771 or visit our website and submit a case inquiry form.