Workers’ compensation laws emerged as a tradeoff meant to help both employers and employees: Injured workers agreed to forego their right to sue companies for negligence and employers agreed to provide a certain amount lost wages and medical benefits through what was originally known was workmen’s compensation insurance. Today employees and their families are entitled to make claims for injuries sustained in the workplace.
A wide variety of injuries and occupational diseases are covered by worker compensation, but, according to a recent Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the top 10 disabling injuries are:
- Overexertion caused by excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing
- Falling on the same level
- Falling to a lower level
- Injuries sustained while bending, climbing, reaching, standing, sitting, slipping or tripping without falling
- Being struck by a falling object such as a tool
- Highway accidents
- Injuries caused when a worker is caught in or compressed by equipment or objects
- Being struck by an object (e.g., walking into a door)
- Repetitive-motion injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Workplace violence
How do I make a workers’ comp claim in Missouri?
The benefits provided to Missouri workers through the workers compensation system can help bridge periods where the injury leaves the employee unable to work, provide coverage for medical expenses or even help a bereaved family make ends meet after a worker is killed on the job. To put these benefits to work, though, an injured worker must file a claim.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in St. Louis
Missouri law requires the injured worker to immediately notify his or her employer of the injury. A worker who fails to notify the employer within 30 days of an injury may not be able to obtain benefits. The employer notification should:
- Be submitted in writing
- Provide the name and address of the injured employee
- State the date, time and place of injury
- Describe the nature of the injury
Once the injury has been reported to the employer, the worker may also file a claim with the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation. Although a claim is not required for a worker to receive benefits under Missouri’s worker compensation laws, filing a claim with competent legal representation ensures that the employer and insurance carrier will not provide less than the full amount of coverage which you are owed.
Time Limit for Filing Missouri Compensation Claim
The time limit for filing a worker compensation claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation is two years after the injury or death or two years after the last payment was made by the employer or insurance carrier for the worker on account of the injury or death.
The time limit is three years after the injury or death or the last payment was made if the employer does not timely file a report of injury with the division.
Missouri Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits
No one wants to get hurt on the job, and no one wants to be permanently disabled as a result of a work-related accident. Unfortunately, however, permanent injuries that leave an employee permanently disabled do occur. A common example of this occurring is when there is an amputation injury. When this happens, the employee is eligible for permanent partial disability benefits or permanent total disability benefits.
Permanent Disability and Work-Related Injuries
If a worker is still disabled after medical treatment for injuries sustained on the job, permanent disability benefits may be awarded.
Permanent partial disability: An employee who is able to go back to work after treatment for a work-related injury but unable to return to his or her previous job may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. The employee is entitled to 66 2/3 percent of his or her average weekly wages, not to exceed a statutory cap. The worker may also negotiate a lump-sum settlement.
Permanent total disability: An employee who is no longer able to work after reaching maximum medical improvement is eligible for permanent total disability benefits. The employee is entitled to 66 2/3 percent of his or her average weekly wages for a lifetime. The worker may also negotiate a lump-sum settlement. This benefit is also subject to a statutory maximum cap.
Car Accidents While at Work
When is a car accident victim eligible for worker compensation benefits?
According to a study recently released by insurance company Liberty Mutual, motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of disabling injuries on the job. People who must drive as part of their employment may be eligible for worker compensation benefits if they are injured.
Job Duties and Work Comp Coverage
Generally someone who is involved in a car accident as he or she drives to or from work is not covered by worker compensation. However, if an accident occurs while a worker is carrying out his or her job duties, he or she may be eligible for compensation.
Some examples of driving employees to whom worker compensation coverage may be extended:
- Truck drivers
- Salespeople who travel
- Delivery drivers
- People who drive a company-owned vehicles
- Employees who carry out errands such as making bank deposits
The so-called coming-and-going rule prohibiting worker compensation coverage for employees driving to and from work has exceptions. In Snowbarger v. Tri-County Electric Cooperative, et al., the Missouri Supreme Court held forth a “special hazard” exception to the coming and going rule. In that case, Mitchell Snowbarger, an employee of Tri-County Electric Cooperative, worked 86 hours in a 100.5-hour period because of an ice storm. He fell asleep at the wheel on his way home from work and was killed in a crash.
The Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission awarded worker compensation survivor benefits to Snowbarger’s wife and son. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the award. The court held that the employee’s physical exhaustion — the result of his long work hours — put him at unusual risk for an automobile accident.
Medical Expenses and Missouri Workers’ Compensation
An employee who is injured on the job is entitled to full coverage of the associated medical bills. Although the law seems straightforward, there are ways in which an employer or insurance company may try to reduce the amount of its financial responsibility or avoid it altogether. Missouri workers comp laws have been established to hold employers responsible for those injuries sustained by workers while on the job.
Medical Expense Coverage
Missouri law requires employers to cover authorized medical bills, costs of care, prescriptions and medical devices used to treat work injuries and occupational illnesses. In addition, the law prohibits employers from charging employees a deductible.
The law allows the employer, not the employee, to choose the healthcare provider, physician or hospital. However, if a worker is required to travel outside the local or metropolitan area where the employer’s principal place of business is located to receive treatment, the employer must pay the reasonable and necessary expenses incurred as a result of the travel.
Unfortunately, there are tactics that some employers may use to limit the amount of the benefits or deny workers compensation coverage altogether:
- The employer or insurance company may claim that your injury is not related to your employment.
- The employer or employer’s insurance company may argue that your injury was a result of a preexisting condition.
- The employer may attempt to withhold authorizations for treatments or specialist care that is deemed unnecessary by the employer, the insurance company or the medical expert retained to evaluate your case on its behalf.
- The employer may declare that the work-related injury has reached “maximum medical improvement” and that further treatment will not help the worker.
The employer may declare that you have not complied with medical treatment directives or that you have abandoned your medical treatment efforts.
Lost Wage Benefits and Missouri Workers’ Compensation
A worker who is hurt on the job may need time off from work to recover. An injured worker who is able to return to the job may be forced take a lighter-duty position or different position because of the injury. The Missouri workers’ compensation system ensures that the employee receives some compensation for wages lost in such situations.
Temporary Benefits for Lost Wages
In Missouri, two types of temporary benefits are available to replace wages lost as a result of on-the-job injury.
Temporary total disability benefits: If an injury leaves a worker unable to return to the job temporarily, or surgery or another medical procedure keeps the worker off the job, temporary total disability will cover 66 2/3 percent of the worker’s average gross weekly wages up to a statutory maximum cap.
Temporary partial disability benefits: Sometimes, after being hurt on the job, a worker is cleared to return to work so long as the job is modified or the worker is assigned to a light-duty task. For example, a roofer who breaks a leg may be allowed to return to work in a clerical capacity until the fracture heals. If the modified job pays less than the worker’s original one, the worker is eligible for temporary partial disability benefits. The employee is entitled to 66 2/3 percent of the difference between the average gross weekly wages earned before the accident and what a reasonably diligent employee would earn after the accident, up to a statutory maximum cap.
Both temporary total disability benefits and temporary partial disability benefits end when the worker is cleared to return to work or a physician declares that maximum medical improvement has been reached.
Construction Worker Injuries and Illnesses in Missouri
Ironworkers, roofers, plumbers, electricians and carpenters are just a few of the many skilled tradesmen and women employed in the construction industry. The work they do is vital — but their jobs also are some of the most dangerous in the United States. Under Missouri law, a construction worker who is hurt on the job is entitled to worker compensation benefits, and the family of a worker who dies in a construction-related accident is eligible for death benefits.
Construction Accidents and Injuries St. Louis
The Center for Construction Research and Training released a study, funded by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, titled “Lifetime Risks of Occupational Injuries & Illnesses among Construction Workers.” The authors concluded that:
- A construction worker with a 45-year career in the industry has a 1-in-200 chance of dying of a work-related injury.
- A construction worker with a 45-year career in the industry who does not die of a work-related injury still has a 75 percent chance of experiencing lost-time injuries over this career span.
- A 20-year-old construction worker who survives to the age of 85 has a 15 percent risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The deadliest construction occupations, according to the study, are:
- Power installer
- Truck driver
Death Benefits Available Under Workers’ Compensation
A workplace accident that ends in the death of an employee can result in both emotional and financial devastation. Missouri’s workers’ compensation system offers death benefits to the family that has lost a loved one to a work-related accident.
Missouri law requires employers to notify the state Division of Workers’ Compensation of an on-the-job fatality within 30 days of the death. The division should then notify the employee’s dependents of their eligibility for death benefits.
In Missouri, a dependent includes:
- The worker’s spouse
- The worker’s children under the age of 18
- The worker’s children between the ages of 18 and 22 if they are full-time students
- The worker’s children who are mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to earn wages
- In certain cases, children who have served on military active duty
If there are no total dependents but some individuals were partially dependent (for example, an elderly parent), the partial dependent may be eligible for partial death benefits.
Work Comp Death Benefits
There are two scenarios in which death benefits may be awarded under Missouri worker compensation law.
- If the worker died in an on-the-job accident, the surviving dependents are entitled to 66 2/3 percent of the deceased worker’s average weekly wages up to the maximum amount allowable by law. The employer and insurer are also required to pay $5,000 in funeral expenses.
- If an employee on permanent partial disability or permanent total disability dies of an unrelated cause, the dependents may be entitled to benefits.
Fighting for the Workers Compensation You Deserve
If you have been injured in a workplace accident or someone you love has been injured or killed on the job, contact the Missouri workers’ compensation lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm. The Dixon Injury Firm has helped recovery over $35,000,000 for injury victims and are recognized as Top 100 Trial Lawyers.
Call immediately for a FREE work injury case consultation by calling (314) 409-7060 or (855) 402-7247.