Monthly Archives: January 2013

Overcoming Aggressive Tactics by Workers Compensation Carriers in Kansas

At our Kansas City workers compensation law firm, we often receive inquiries from injured workers who delay seeking legal advice when pursuing a workers compensation claim.  The claimants will prepare their own initial paperwork and start medical treatment without seeking legal advice from an experienced Kansas workers compensation attorney.  It is important that workers compensation claimants understand that insurance providers will use the full measure of their litigation resources to deny or reduce the recovery in a valid workers compensation claim.  A recent case decided in favor of the employee demonstrates the risk of this approach.

The employee in the case went to court to challenge the employer’s refusal to cover the cost of a medical evaluation.  While the employee who worked for the National Beef Packing Company complained of injury to his neck and shoulder, the employer disputed whether the neck injury was work-related.  The employer declined to refer the employee for treatment for neck pain and referred the employee only for treatment of the shoulder injury.  However, the employee obtained an evaluation from an independent medical provider whom confirmed the neck injury.

When the employee was subsequently involved in an automobile accident, the treating physician diagnosed the injury suffered in the car crash as a spinal compression fracture.  There was no complaint from the employee that the collision aggravated the neck injury, and the physician indicated that the spinal injury would not have any connection to a neck injury.

The employer claimed that the neck injury was the result of the car accident rather than a work-related injuries, but the employee was awarded benefits for the neck injury.  The employer’s attempt to avoid liability for the cost of the first medical evaluation was denied.

This provides an example of the lengths workers compensation carriers will go to when trying to reduce the level of benefits awarded.  If this employee had simply accepted the employer’s evaluation and failed to obtain an independent medical evaluation, the employee may never have received appropriate benefits to cover his neck injuries.  Kansas workers compensation lawyer Michael R. Lawless anticipates these types of tactics by workers compensation carriers and works aggressively to negate such strategies.

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 workers compensation law firm is dedicated to balancing the scales of justice so that you can obtain the compensation that you deserve.  We invite you to call us toll free at 1-800-734-3771 or visit our website and submit a case inquiry form today.

Kansas Workers Compensation Lawyer Michael Lawless Answers FAQs [Part1]

If you are injured in a workplace accident or suffer an occupational illness, you may have many questions about your rights, legal benefits and appropriate claim procedures under the Kansas Workers Compensation System.  When an employee is unable to work, the financial hardships affect not only the injured worker but also the employee’s family.  Lenexa workers compensation attorney Michael R. Lawless frequently receives questions from those who have suffered debilitating injuries in the workplace regarding Kansas workers compensation claims.  We have provided some answers to frequently asked questions.

What benefits are available to an injured worker for on-the-job injuries?

Depending on the specific facts of your situation, a variety of benefits may be available, including but not limited to the following:

  • Medical care
  • Partial weekly wage replacement (short-term disability payments)
  • Long-term disability compensation including lump sum payments
  • Rehabilitative services
  • Family death benefits for fatal work injuries

Can I still recover for an occupational illness or on-the-job injury if I was negligent?

Because the workers compensation system is a no-fault system, the comparative negligence of the injured employee does not preclude workers compensation benefits.  Generally, neither the negligence of the employer nor employee is relevant to the right of an injured employee to recover benefits.  However, there are limited situations where an employee’s actions can impact benefits, including but not limited to intentionally self-inflicted injuries and workplace injuries caused by drug or alcohol impairment.

My contract says I am an independent contractor so am I eligible for benefits?

Workers compensation benefits only cover employees not independent contractors (ICs).  However, an employment contract that designates you as an independent contractor is not dispositive.  An employer may characterize the relationship as an IC relationship to receive tax advantages and to avoid the cost of employee benefits and workers compensation coverage.  The real measure of an IC relationship is the degree of control that the employer exercises over the daily activities of the employee.  Mr. Lawless looks behind employment contacts to the actual nature of the relationship between the injured worker and the employer.

Can I receive compensation for pain and suffering if I suffer a work-related injury?

While it is easier to obtain workers compensation benefits because there is no need to prove negligence by the employer, the scope of recovery is less extensive.  Many forms of damages available in a civil lawsuit for damages are not available in the workers compensation system, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, punitive damages and diminished quality of life.

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 workers compensation law firm is dedicated to balancing the scales of justice so that you can obtain the compensation that you deserve.  We invite you to call us toll free at 1-800-734-3771 or visit our website and submit a case inquiry form today.

Why You Need a Kansas Workers Compensation Attorney

Many Kansas employees that work in hazardous jobs like public safety, construction, agriculture, manufacturing and other occupations suffer on-the-job injuries. When employees are injured in a work related accident or suffer a repetitive motion injury or occupational illness, they often attempt to precede pro se without an attorney. While there is no requirement that workers compensation claimants be represented by an attorney, empirical evidence establishes that claimants who are represented by a Kansas workers compensation attorney fair more favorably than those who are unrepresented.

The Missouri Lawyers Weekly conducted a study after the state significantly modified their workers compensation statutes in 2005. The study revealed that workers compensation claimants represented by attorneys received settlements that were almost forty percent higher than those who were not represented by an attorney. The disparity was even greater after the legislative changes with represented clients receiving settlements that were double that of those who did not have an attorney representing their interests.

As this research demonstrates, the fact that an injured worker can pursue a workers compensation claim without an attorney does not mean that it is a good idea to do so. Workers compensation attorneys typically have in-house counsel on staff that review claims and provide legal advice on how to mitigate the amount of a claim or deny it entirely. When a party proceeds through the workers compensation process without legal representation, the workers compensation insurer has a significant advantage in terms of resources, experience, medical experts and legal advice.

While receiving reduced benefits without a Kansas workers compensation attorney is a significant disadvantage, the speed that one receives benefits also will typically be compromised. Workers compensation insurance representatives handle an enormous volume of claims. Because they have limited time to handle claims, they must prioritize which to move to the top of the stack for processing and which to defer until later. Experienced Kansas workers compensation attorneys can use court appearances to force the workers compensation carrier to explain of justify unjustified delay. This means additional costs are incurred so there is less motivation to drag the process out when a claimant is represented by a workers compensation lawyer.

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 workers compensation firm is dedicated to balancing the scales of justice so that you can obtain the compensation that you deserve. We invite you to call us toll free at 1-800-734-3771 or visit our website and submit a case inquiry form today.

When Is a Kansas Work-Related Injury within the Scope of Employment? [Part II]

In Part I of this blog, we indicated that the Kansas workers compensation system only covers workplace injuries that occur within the “scope of employment.”   When an injury occurs while an employee is not at his or her place of employment, the distinction between a “detour” and “frolic” is critical to determining workers compensation coverage as we discussed in Part I of this blog.  While both terms refer to a deviation from one’s work duties, this distinction is fact sensitive and often bitterly contested by workers compensation insurance attorneys.  We have provided an overview of relevant factors that may be considered when determining whether coverage is applicable.

Location of the Injury: If the location of the accident that causes injury to an employee is a location where the employee routinely works, the accident is more likely to be considered a detour so that workers compensation coverage is appropriate.  While this may include the business facility, it would also include destinations where the employee makes deliveries, or the type of worksites where an employee typically performs job-related duties.  A heavy machinery operator may have never been to the site of a particular construction project before; however, the employee routinely operates a crane for the employer on building sites.

Position of Authority: When the person that suffers injury is a manager, it may be presumed that a broader scope of job duties and discretion would have been authorized than for an entry level employee.

Timing of Incident: This factor may be relevant in two separate respects.  The first is the duration of time that the employee was engaged in the activity outside his or her employment duties that resulted in injury.  A brief departure like driving a couple blocks out of the way to get Starbucks when picking up building supplies may be only detour as opposed to driving an hour away on one’s lunch break to see a movie with a friend.  It may also be relevant if the activity occurred during normal business hours, but this is not necessarily dispositive.  For example, if non-managerial employees get together informally after work for drinks, this may constitute a frolic.  However, a car accident on the way to a restaurant for the company Christmas party may justify workers compensation coverage if the crash occurs while the employee is headed home to change clothes.

Nature of Job Duties: Workers compensation coverage is more likely if the activities are somehow related to the employee’s job duties even if in some tangential way.

Foreseeability of the Departure: If the employer has reason to know that the employee has a pattern of running errands for the employer while also handling personnel tasks or otherwise had access to information that made the departure predictable, this factor may support coverage.

Motivation for Excursion: If the purpose of the excursion benefits the employer, this will tend to support the conclusion that the incident was within the course of employment.

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 workers compensation law firm is dedicated to balancing the scales of justice so that you can obtain the compensation that you deserve.  We invite you to call us toll free at 1-800-734-3771 or visit our website and submit a case inquiry form today.