If you've suffered a work-related injury or occupational illness in Kentucky, you no doubt want to know what benefits you can get through the state's workers' compensation system. This article explains the most important benefits available to injured employees and the basic rules for determining compensation. The actual amount of money you may receive will depend on your medical condition, your ability to return to work, how much you earned before your injury, and how state workers' comp laws apply to your claim.
Can You Get Workers' Comp Benefits in Kentucky for COVID-19?
In Kentucky, you might be able to get workers' comp benefits for an infectious disease like COVID-19, but only if the nature of your job increased your risk of exposure to the illness compared to the general public. In general, you would also need medical evidence showing that you contracted the disease because of exposure while you were working, rather than during the rest of your life. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it would be very difficult for most employees to meet both of those requirements.
On April 9, 2020, Governor Beshear signed an executive order that makes it easier to qualify for temporary total disability benefits when you've been placed under quarantine because of occupational exposure to COVID-19 during the state's pandemic emergency, even if your workers' comp claim is ultimately denied. The state will presume that you were exposed on the job if you work in certain occupations, including healthcare, law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, groceries, the postal service, child advocacy, and some child care (as authorized during the emergency). Anyone else will have to provide evidence that the quarantine was required because of on-the-job exposure. If you qualify, you'll receive benefits from the first day of quarantine, rather than after the normal waiting period for temporary disability (discussed below).
If you can't return to your job (or the same type of work) while you're recovering from your injury, you may receive temporary total disability (TTD) income benefits to help make up for part of your loss in earnings. These benefits are calculated as two-thirds of the average weekly wage you were receiving at the time you were injured or became ill because of your work, subject to maximum and minimum amounts that change annually, depending on the date of your injury. For injuries in 2020, the weekly maximum is $979, and the minimum is $178. (To find the maximum and minimum amounts for other injury dates, go to the Kentucky Department of Workers' Claims site and scroll down to the "Workers' Compensation Benefit Schedule" for the current year.)
Kentucky doesn't pay TTD income benefits for the first seven days off work, unless your temporary disability last more than two weeks. The payments will continue until you can return to your normal job or you reach a point known as "maximum medical improvement" (MMI)—which means that your condition has stabilized and isn't expect to improve, even with further medical treatment.
Although Kentucky workers' comp doesn't explicitly provide what many states call temporary partial disability, you may still receive some income benefits if you're able to do light-duty or other alternative work while you're still recovering. In that situation, the amount of TTD benefits will be offset by your actual after-tax earnings.
Once you've reached MMI, your doctor will evaluate your condition to see if you have any permanent disability. If so, you may receive income benefits for total or partial permanent disability.
If your injury or occupational illness prevents you from performing any type of work, you'll be entitled to receive permanent total disability income benefits at the same rate as TTD benefits. These benefits will continue as long as you're completely disabled, until you turn 70.
If you're still able to do some kind of work but your work-related injury or illness has left you with some permanent disability, your doctor will give you what's known as a "permanent impairment rating." This rating—which is a percentage representing the extent to which you've lost overall bodily function—will then go into a formula to determine how much you may receive in permanent partial disability (PPD) income benefits. Kentucky's rules for PPD are complicated, but here are the basics for determining the amount of benefits:
If all this sounds complicated, that's one reason most injured employees hire a workers' comp lawyer to help them through the process. But if you've already been assigned an impairment rating, you can get an estimate of your benefit amount by using Kentucky's PPD Benefit Calculator.
Regardless of the multipliers discussed above, there's a time limit on how long you can receive PPD income benefits in Kentucky. If you have a rating of 50% or less, you'll receive PDD benefits for 425 weeks; if your rating is 51% or higher, the benefits will last for 520 weeks from the time when you first had impairment over 50%.
In addition to the income benefits for temporary and permanent disability, Kentucky workers' comp provides other types of benefits, including:
The workers' comp system has pluses and minuses. On the minus side, income benefits cover only part of your lost wages, and you won't receive any compensation for your pain and suffering—the physical and emotional distress your injury has caused. (There are only a few limited situations when you may sue outside of the workers' comp system to recover all of your losses from a workplace injury, including pain and suffering.) On the plus side, however, you can receive benefits relatively quickly without having to file a lawsuit, prove that your employer was to blame for your injury, and find a way to cover your medical expenses and lost income while you wait for the outcome.