How Much Are Workers' Compensation Benefits in Kentucky?

Learn about the most important workers' comp benefits available in Kentucky for an on-the-job injury or occupational disease, how the state calculates the amount of those benefits, and whether you can receive benefits for COVID-19.

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).

Temporary Disability Income Benefits in Kentucky

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.

Permanent Disability Income Benefits in Kentucky

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.

Permanent Total Disability Benefits

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.

How Kentucky Calculates Permanent Partial Disability Benefits

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:

  • Base PDD formula. First, the state will apply a formula to determine the base amount. Two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wage will be multiplied by the percentage of your impairment rating; that sum will then be multiplied again by a factor listed in a table in Kentucky law (which goes from a .65 multiplier for an impairment rating of 5% or less to a 1.7 multiplier for a rating above 35%). For example, if you received a 30% impairment rating for a back injury and previously earned $600 per week, the weekly benefits under this formula would be $162 (.6667 x 600 = $400; $400 x .3 = $120; $120 x 1.35 (the statutory factor for a 30% rating) = $162).
  • Additional multipliers and caps based on work status. If you aren't physically able to return to the same type of work you were doing before your injury, you'll receive three times the formula amount, subject to the same maximum and minimum that applies to TTD benefits. If you've been able to return to work and are earning the same or more than your pre-injury wages, the maximum benefits are lower (for most people, $734.25 for 2020 injuries). However, if that works ends for any reason, you may receive PDD benefits equal to twice the amount in the formula above (up to the time limit discussed below).
  • Additional multipliers based on age and education. Kentucky law also adjusts the amount of PPD benefits for injured workers who have limited education and are older, because those factors can affect the ability to earn a living.

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.

Duration of Permanent Partial Disability Benefits in Kentucky

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%.

Other Workers' Comp Benefits in Kentucky

In addition to the income benefits for temporary and permanent disability, Kentucky workers' comp provides other types of benefits, including:

  • Medical treatment. Workers' comp will cover all the costs of reasonable and necessary medical treatment for your work-related injury or illness. If you're permanently and totally disabled (or have certain other types of serious injuries, like amputation or hearing loss), the benefits will continue as long as you have the disability. If you have a permanent partial disability, however, medical benefits will generally stop after 780 weeks (from the injury date), unless you've applied for and received an extension.
  • Death benefits. When an employee dies as a result of a work injury or occupational illness, Kentucky pays income benefits to the surviving spouse and other dependents. The amount and duration of those benefits will depend the deceased employee's pre-injury earnings and the number and type of dependents. If the death happens within four years of the injury, workers' comp will pay an additional lump-sum to the deceased employee's estate. Even if an employee with a valid workers' comp claim dies of other causes (not related to the workplace injury or illness) before the end of the time limit for permanent disability income benefits, the surviving spouse and children may receive a portion of those unpaid benefits.
  • Retraining incentive benefits for coal workers with black lung disease. Kentucky provides special workers' comp benefits for coal workers with pneumoconiosis (also called black lung disease), including income benefits and other education costs while they're pursuing education or retraining.

Limits on Workers' Comp Benefits

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.

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