Understanding your rights: Missouri workers' compensation law & mental injuries

file1801281015946.jpgMost Missouri workers' compensation claims stem from workplace accidents that cause physical injuries, or from occupational diseases caused by workplace conditions. However, there is another kind of injury that can pose a threat to employees: mental or psychological injuries. Mental illnesses are much more prevalent than many people realize. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in four adults - or about 61 million Americans - deal with mental health issues every year. And according to the American Psychological Association (APA), mental injuries are one of the top ten work-related injuries and illnesses reported by employees nationwide.

In recent years, federal and state agencies - along with employers and employees - have become more educated about mental illnesses and the way they can impact an individual's overall health (and their job productivity). This increased knowledge has led to heightened awareness of work -related stress disorders that can ultimately manifest themselves as mental illnesses. As a result, several states have amended their workers' compensation laws accordingly, authorizing employees who suffer from job-related mental health issues to seek workers' comp benefits.

Understanding your rights: Missouri workers' compensation law and mental injuries

Under §287.120, 8 and 9, RSMo:

"Mental injury resulting from work-related stress does not arise out of and in the course of the employment, unless it is demonstrated that the stress is work related and was extraordinary and unusual. The amount of work stress shall be measured by objective standards and actual events."

"A mental injury is not considered to arise out of and in the course of the employment if it resulted from any disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination or any similar action taken in good faith by the employer."

In other words, claimants must demonstrate that stress is "extraordinary and unusual" to be awarded compensation for mental injuries.

Mental injuries in Missouri workplaces: A few real-life examples

• A Missouri woman filed a workers' compensation claim after she suffered a panic attack on the job. Ultimately, the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission awarded her workers' comp benefits. Because of the poor condition of her work environment - and because her direct supervisor was her ex-husband - the Commission ruled that her mental stress was "extraordinary and unusual" in comparison to the mental stress of her coworkers.

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Survivor benefits & Missouri workers' compensation law: Who is eligible?

February 20, 2015

guidance-911950-m.jpgAs Missouri workers' compensation lawyers, we know that the aftermath of a fatal workplace accident can be a confusing and traumatic time for the victim's loved ones. We also know that sometimes people do not receive benefits they are entitled to under Missouri law simply because they are not aware that they are eligible for those benefits. In this post, we want to discuss the importance of listing your next of kin or who to contact in case of emergency in your employment personnel records.

According to Missouri workers' compensation laws, if a family member dies in a work related accident, the employer/insurer must pay as much as five thousand dollars for burial costs. In addition, the surviving spouse or other dependents are eligible for two thirds of the victim's wages for a specific period of time.

When the Division of Workers' Compensation is informed of any worker's death, the process is set into motion: the Division will notify the family of the deceased about their rights to compensation under the law. However, they will only notify the surviving family if they are told by the employer that there are indeed eligible dependents.

Employers are required by law to keep records for every employee. When you begin a new job, you should be asked to provide an emergency contact for your employer to keep on file. Unfortunately, according to the Division of Workers' Compensation, some employers don't always keep such records. When discovered, some of these negligent employers have faced serious legal consequences: not complying with this law is considered workers' compensation fraud. To make sure your dependents are protected, you should make sure your employer has your next of kin and emergency contact information on file.

Who is eligible for survivor benefits under Missouri law?

It is not only surviving spouses who are eligible for survivor benefits. Anyone who is considered dependent upon the deceased for their livelihood, such as underage children, or elderly, dependent parents, may also be eligible, depending on the circumstances.

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Avoiding winter workplace hazards: Tips for Missouri employees

ice-storm-700294-m.jpgWhile many of us can opt to stay home when winter weather comes to Missouri, some workers in our state aren't so lucky. Utility workers, emergency responders, highway workers, federal, state and local government personnel, and other employees may find themselves on-the-job - whether they like it or not - in wintry conditions. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are a number of particularly dangerous workplace hazards that can present themselves in winter conditions. In this post, our workers' comp lawyers detail a few of the most common situations that lead to workplace injuries in winter weather - and recommend a few proactive safety strategies.

Workplace injuries in winter weather: Three common scenarios

• Auto accidents due to poor road conditions. Many injuries that occur during winter storms are the result of motor vehicle accidents. If your job requires you to drive in winter weather, OSHA officials encourage you to be prepared. Check road and weather conditions before you get behind the wheel - that way, you can plan the safest possible route, and you won't be distracted while you're already trying to deal with slick roads. (You can use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio or website; and the Missouri Department of Transportation also provides up-to-date road condition information.)

In addition, be sure to winterize your vehicle by having its key systems checked, especially your brakes and your tires. Also, it's wise to carry an emergency kit containing essential supplies, just in case you become stranded. You might include items like blankets, an ice scraper, a shovel, flashlights (with spare batteries), jumper cables, non-perishable food, water, etc.

• "Cold stress": Frostbite and/or hypothermia from cold weather exposure. Approximately 20% of winter workplace injuries are caused by prolonged exposure to the elements. The term frostbite refers to freezing in deep layers of skin and tissue caused by the cold. Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the affected areas, or a waxy-white or pale appearance in the fingers, toes, nose or ear lobes. Hypothermia, which occurs when an individual's body temperature drops below 95 degrees, can also produce a number of symptoms, including uncontrollable shivering, slowed speech, lapses in memory, stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion.

Workers are encouraged to learn the signs and symptoms of these conditions so they can be quickly recognized; to dress appropriately for outdoor work; and to take regular breaks in a warm, dry environment. Learn more by clicking here.

• Slips and falls on slippery walkways and surfaces. Snow and ice are two of the most common catalysts for slip and fall accidents in the workplace. If you're working in wintry conditions, you'll want to make sure you have appropriate footwear. OSHA officials recommend wearing a pair of insulated boots with good rubber tread. When walking on icy or snowy surfaces, be sure to take small steps and walk slowly, just in case you lose traction.

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Missouri workers' compensation: What you need to know after an on-the-job injury

November 20, 2014

file3291233869663.jpgAs Missouri workers' compensation lawyers, we know the aftermath of a serious workplace injury is often a confusing, overwhelming time for both injury victims and their families. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, you likely have a lot of questions and concerns. Below, we've provided some basic information about workers' compensation in Missouri.

Facts about the Missouri workers' compensation system:

• It is a no-fault insurance plan for workers who suffer injuries that arise "out of and in the course of [their] employment."

• It provides medical benefits and wage loss compensation. Medical benefits may include coverage for doctor visits, prescriptions, laboratory work, medical supplies, physical therapy and hospitalization.

• Its goal is to help the employee heal and return to his or her job.

• Its laws are outlined in Chapter 287 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.

• It is administered by the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation.

• It does not cover your injuries if you were not within the scope of your employment when you were injured (i.e. commuting to work or running a personal errand).

• It covers job related injuries such as burns, amputations, hernias, bone fractures, torn meniscus, stroke, general anxiety disorder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, bulging disc, concussion, torn rotator cuff, blindness, neck injury, back injury, fibromyalgia, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

• It authorizes your employer to choose your treating physician.

• It offers disability benefits to injured workers, including temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and permanent total disability benefits, depending on the nature of your injuries.

• Under certain circumstances, it can cover vocational rehabilitation benefits and death benefits.

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Medical treatment & workplace injuries: Common issues facing Missouri employees

October 20, 2014

medical-doctor-1314902-m.jpgAlthough the Missouri workers' compensation program was designed to provide automatic benefits to injured workers, such is often not the case. In theory, medical bills, weekly temporary disability payments, and lump sum permanent disability payments should be made without the need of a Missouri workers compensation attorney. In practicality, however, an attorney is often beneficial for a number of reasons.

You should be aware that a workers' compensation case is a legal proceeding, and, in the majority of cases, employers and insurers are required to have legal representation at all appearances before the Division of Workers' Compensation. That means you'll likely have to deal with your employer's attorney throughout the process, and it's often extremely beneficial to have your own lawyer working to protect your rights, especially when you're receiving medical treatment for your injuries.

Importantly, a lawyer can help you manage any disagreements that may arise during your treatment, including the following:

Disagreements about health care providers and treatment: Your employer chooses your doctor

While your employer or your employer's insurer must pay your medical bills arising from any job related injury, your employer (or the employer's insurer) is legally entitled to choose your health care provider.

This means that your employer will determine which doctor you see, which hospital you are admitted to, and what physical therapist guides your rehabilitation.

What if you don't feel that you're being treated fairly? What if you are discharged from care before you are ready? What if you're not getting all the treatment you need? A Missouri workers compensation attorney can have you evaluated by a trusted physician. If that physician indicates you need more or different treatment, your attorney will work to see that you receive that treatment.

Disagreements about weekly temporary disability payments

Every injured Missouri worker is entitled to weekly benefits while temporarily disabled. These payments are equivalent to two-thirds of the worker's normal weekly pay. While these benefits are supposed to be automatic, sometimes workers get lost in what can be a complicated system. Here again, a Missouri workers compensation lawyer will help you obtain the benefits you're entitled to by defending your rights.

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Dealing with a Missouri workers' comp claim? How a lawyer can help

September 19, 2014

buried-alive-253947-m.jpgAt Aaron Sachs and Associates, our workers' compensation lawyers represent employees who have suffered on-the-job injuries in Missouri. If you've been injured at work, we may be able to assist you in what can be a complicated, overwhelming process. Our attorneys are familiar with the intricacies of the complex Missouri workers compensation system: we can help navigate your case through the system by handling all the paperwork, legal filings, interviews, research, and expert witnesses. We believe our clients should be free to focus on recovery, so it's our job to help you take care of yourself and your family financially by helping you get the benefits you need and deserve.

Missouri workers' compensation lawyers provide legal advice:

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, we invite you to contact our office. We offer a free initial consultation, wherein we will discuss your case, answer your questions and address your concerns. We know our clients come to us with numerous questions about what to expect, and - of course - they want to know what we can do to help.

How Missouri workers' comp lawyers help injured employees:

Every client - and every case - is different. In general, a knowledgeable lawyer can offer the following services:

• Analyze the circumstances surrounding your injury and determine whether or not you have a valid claim
• Answer your questions and address your concerns
• File your case within the required legal time limits
• Find and work with expert witnesses (such as medical doctors) as needed
• Guide you through the Missouri workers compensation maze
• Deal with the insurance company on your behalf
• Appeal your case if you've been denied benefits

Additional considerations:

• If you have a scar on your face, head, or neck from your work injury, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
• If you were injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
• If you are receiving other benefits (i.e. social security disability, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.), those benefits can impact the workers' comp benefits you may receive.

Missouri workers' compensation lawyer fees:

There is no charge, no pressure and no obligation associated with our initial conference. In addition, our attorneys work on a contingent-fee basis, which means the fee for our services is contingent upon recovering money in your workers' compensation case. It won't cost you anything to find out if we can help.

Contact us today:

We invite you to contact our office to schedule a meeting with one of our workers' compensation lawyers. For your convenience, we maintain offices in Springfield, Joplin, Columbia, Cape Girardeau and Kansas City. You can reach us seven days a week by calling our toll-free number: 1-888-777-2886.

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OSHA's "high heat provision" designed to protect Missouri workers from heat-related illnesses and fatalities

water-bottle-blackground-1345287-m.jpgThis week, Missourians are enjoying a brief respite from traditional July temperatures, but forecasts indicate that the summer heat will be back before we know it. Did you know that an average of 1,500 people die each year from exposure to excessive heat? There are also various different heat-related illnesses that are a particular hazard to those who work outdoors - especially in dangerous summer temperatures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a national outreach campaign to educate employers and workers about the dangers of working in the heat.

"If you're working outdoors, you're at risk for heat-related illnesses that can cause serious medical problems and even death," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "But heat illness can be prevented. This Labor Department campaign will reach across the country with a very simple message - water, rest and shade."

Many Missouri outdoor job sites in the summers have radiant heat sources, along with high temperatures and humidity levels. The work frequently includes heavy physical labor and/or direct physical contact with hot objects. These factors directly increase the chances for heat stress-related illness.

For these reasons, OSHA has long had safety standards in place to prevent heat-related illness and fatalities; this issue is certainly not a new one. However, unfortunately, there are still too many Missouri employers and job supervisors who don't follow OSHA's regulations, putting their employees at risk.

Different heat illnesses and their symptoms include heat stroke, dehydration, cramps, rashes, fainting. The main kinds of work sites where employees are at risk of heat illnesses are construction sites, farms, laundries, bakeries/kitchens, mining sites and foundries. However, if you do any work outdoors for your employer, and suffer any of these heat-related illnesses on the job, you may be covered by Missouri Workers' Compensation.

OSHA's heat illness prevention standards were changed in 2012 to include a "high heat provision." This means that when the temps hit 95 degrees, five specific industries must implement the following procedures:

• observing employees for signs of heat related distress
• closely supervising new employees
• reminding all employees throughout the shift to drink water

The five industries targeted by these provisions are agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy material.

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Fall-related injuries especially prevalent among Missouri construction workers

file0002014498486.jpgAs Missouri workers' compensation lawyers, we know that private construction workers can be particularly vulnerable to on-the-job injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace falls are one of the common causes of workplace injuries, especially among employees in residential construction. Because falls have become such a serious safety issue in recent years, OSHA officials created fall protection guidance which aims to prevent fall-related injuries - and fatalities. According to the most recent data, falls are the number one cause of death for workers in the construction industry.

According to the Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction, employers are required to make sure that residential construction employees are provided with the appropriate fall protection. OSHA issued these guidelines in December 2010 and employers are now required to meet their official Fall Protection in Construction standard. This document contains a number of work methods that an employer can use for assistance in complying with this standard and the full scope of its requirements.

"Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths."

This OSHA directive illustrates a number of methods that should be used to preserve the safety of employees throughout all stages of construction, although it mainly focuses on newer construction. Some of these methods include preventing fall-related injuries and deaths by using anchors for personal fall arrest systems and fall restraints, ladders, and scaffolds.

Serious injuries are distressingly common among residential construction workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal work injuries in the private construction sector increased by 5% in 2012 with 775 deaths, up from 738 in 2011. Of those fatalities, 668 were the result of falls, slips or trips - and construction accounted for the largest number of work-related deaths of any industry sector in 2012.

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Filing a Missouri workers' comp claim: What injured employees need to know

885334_healthcare_upclose.jpgAs personal injury lawyers, we know that the Missouri workers' compensation system can be confusing and intimidating for injured employees and their loved ones. In this post, we address a few questions we commonly hear from our clients.

Q: When do I need to file a workers' compensation claim?
A: First, it's important to note that reporting your injury to your employer is not the same thing as filing a workers' comp claim. If you're injured on the job, you must report the injury to your employer (in writing) immediately - and if you fail to do so within 30 days following the injury, you may lose your right to pursue compensation. After you notify your employer, your employer must then file a Report of Injury with the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation.

In contrast, a workers' compensation claim must be submitted directly to the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation. Injured workers may wish to file a claim if they feel they have not been fully compensated for their damages and losses. Claims must be filed within two years following the date of injury, or the date the last payment was made on account of the injury (unless the employer failed to submit a Report of Injury in a timely manner, in which case the employee has three years from those dates to file a claim).

Q: Will I lose my job if I file a claim?
A: Under Missouri law, employers are prohibited from firing an employee solely because the employee is pursuing his or her workers' comp rights. If you believe you were fired, demoted, suspended or disciplined by your employer solely because you filed a workers' comp claim, you should speak with an attorney concerning your legal rights. Depending on the circumstances, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Q: What if my injury prevents me from returning to work?
A: Injured employees who are unable to return to work in any capacity may qualify for permanent total disability benefits. If your injury limits your ability to perform certain tasks, but you are still able to work in some capacity, you may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits. Other benefits available may include temporary total disability benefits (if you are temporarily unable to return to work while recovering from your injury) and temporary partial disability benefits (if you return to work on restricted or modified duty at less than full pay).

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Missouri Supreme Court decision extends legal protections for injured workers

gavel-3-1409593-m.jpgThis week, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned 30 years of precedent in a ruling that strengthens legal protection for workers who are fired after suffering on-the-job injuries.

It has always been illegal for Missouri employers to retaliate against employees who file workers' compensation claims. Section 287.780 of Missouri Workers' Compensation Law states: "No employer or agent shall discharge or in any way discriminate against any employee for exercising any of his rights under this chapter." The law also stipulates that any worker who has been either fired or retaliated against in any way has grounds for a lawsuit against his employer. In 1984, the Supreme Court adopted an "exclusive-cause standard," meaning employees had to prove that filing a workers' comp claim was the sole reason for their dismissal in order to take legal action against an employer.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that employees "no longer have to prove that workers' compensation claims [are] the exclusive cause for their dismissal in order to win lawsuits alleging retaliation. Instead...employees must show only that workers' compensation claims were a contributing factor in the subsequent dismissal from their job." (emphasis added)

Sadly, some Missouri employees are reluctant to file a workers' comp claim for this very reason: they fear retaliation from their employers. The Court's ruling works to protect the interests of injured workers who find themselves in this situation. "Discrimination against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the workers' compensation law is just as illegal, insidious and reprehensible as discrimination under the [Missouri Human Rights Act]," wrote Judge George Draper II.

Other forms of employer retaliation

In addition to termination, employer or manager retaliation may show up in any of the following types of discrimination or harassment:

• Unwarranted poor performance review
• Scheduling issues
• Isolation or intimidation
• Demotion, reassignment, reclassification or transfer
• Threatened adverse wage action
• Interference with or dispute of a legitimate workers' compensation claim
• Unreasonable increase or decrease in job duties
• Unjustified disciplinary action

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Managing medical treatment issues as a Missouri workers' compensation claimant

65906_iv_bag.jpgAccording to Missouri's Workers' Compensation Law, your employer has the right to choose the injured employee's health care provider. Most employers will then delegate that responsibility to their insurance carrier. However, this does not mean that an injured worker's medical care is in under the control of the insurance company. Medical treatment is always under the control of the treating physician selected by the employer or insurer. Problems can arise, however, because insurance companies are responsible for authorizing and directing care--which means that there are situations where reasonable care is not provided.

What if the injured employee disagrees with the diagnosis, or is unhappy with the health provider chosen for him/her?

Missouri law allows employees to select their own doctor, surgeon, or other medical provider, but the employee must pay for that treatment themselves. This happens infrequently, because of the high cost of medical treatment. Even if the injured party has medical insurance, many policies will not cover an injury sustained in the work[lace.

Sometimes it might be necessary to travel to see a physician: for example, when an injured worker needs a specialist, and there are none in the immediate area; or when an accident happens in a small town or rural location, without access to the medical services needed. If you are required to travel outside the local metropolitan area of the employer's location, then the employer is required to pay your travel costs: these are considered necessary and reasonable expenses. If you cannot travel, or believe that the travel is making your condition worse, speak to your employer/insurer about the situation. If nothing satisfactory can be worked out, at this point you can request a conference with an administrative law judge (ALJ) to discuss the situation. It might also be helpful to consult a Missouri Workers' Compensation Attorney.

If an injured worker is unhappy with the medical treatment he is receiving, or believes he needs a specialist, more tests, or a different type of treatment, these situations need to be handled carefully. First, discuss the issue with the insurance company. If this approach doesn't provide a solution, a workers' comp attorney can formally dispute the employer's treatment plan. On the other hand, if the insurer or employer disagrees with a doctor's diagnosis, they then have the qualified right to authorize a change of physician.

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Dealing with a workplace injury? 5 FAQs answered for Missouri workers

hospital-room-449234-m.jpgAs Missouri workers' compensation lawyers, we know the aftermath of an on-the-job injury can be overwhelming and confusing for injury victims and their loved ones. On top of dealing with the physical and emotional trauma of the injury, victims and their families are often dealing with numerous concerns and questions: it can be hard to know where to begin. In this post, we discuss five questions we commonly hear from injured workers.

1. How do I know if I have a workers' compensation claim?

If you've been injured in the course and scope of your employment, you may be entitled to workers' comp benefits. Every Missouri employer with five or more employees is required to carry workers' compensation insurance, and employers in the construction industry are required to carry insurance if they have one or more employees. However, you must report the injury to your employer within 30 days or you could become ineligible for benefits. In addition, Missouri law allows the employer the right to choose the treating physician, so if you need medical treatment, you should tell your employer immediately.

2. What if I have to miss work because of my injury?

If your injury causes you to miss more than three regularly scheduled work days, you may be eligible for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits to compensate you for your lost wages. TTD benefits are based on two-thirds of your average weekly wage prior to your injury. If you're able to return to your job, but at modified duties or reduced pay, you may be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits.

3. What other kinds of benefits are available through workers' comp?

The Missouri workers' compensation system provides benefits that include medical care, lost wages and permanent disability benefits. Permanent partial disability benefits are available to employees who can work in some capacity, but whose injuries limit their ability to perform certain tasks. Permanent total disability benefits are awarded to employees who can no longer work at any job.

4. What if my employer (or the insurance company) wants to settle my case?

Be advised that accepting a settlement will close your case entirely: your employer will not be responsible for any future medical treatment or compensation. If you are still being treated for your injuries - or if you recently had a major surgery - your claim is not yet ready to settle. Before you accept a settlement, your doctor will need to rate your injury and assess the total scope of its impact on your life. Just because you are offered a settlement doesn't mean you have to accept it.

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Download our free Missouri Work Comp App!

February 14, 2014

IMG_2767.JPGThe aftermath of a workplace injury can be an overwhelming, confusing time: after all, injured workers have several issues to consider, and it can be hard to know where to begin. If you've been injured on the job and you're looking for a workers' compensation resource, our firm may have a tool that can help you! Here at Aaron Sachs and Associates, we're proud to offer the "Missouri Work Comp App," available now for free download at the Apple App Store. Here are just a few of the features available via the app:

• Access quick call emergency numbers, to help you get in touch with the right people without hunting for contact information.

• Capture and record important accident information, so you can keep everything you need in one place for easy retrieval.

• Record your proof of insurance.

• Track and record your injury-related expenses.

• Find our office locations.

Please visit the Apple Store to download the App: you can get there in just one step by clicking the "Download our App" button in the top right corner of this page!

Note: Use of this application does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

At Aaron Sachs and Associates, our workers' compensation lawyers serve Missouri employees who are injured on the job. If you or a loved one has suffered a workplace injury, please contact our office to find out if we can assist you with a workers' compensation claim. Call us toll-free at 1-888-777-2886, or click here to submit our convenient "Do I Have a Case?" form via our website. There is no charge for an initial consultation, no pressure and no obligation. Offices in Springfield, Joplin, Columbia, Cape Girardeau and Kansas City.

Injured on the job? 5 FAQs answered for Missouri workers

January 24, 2014

orthopedic-leg-brace-1232546-m.jpgThe aftermath of a workplace injury can be a confusing, overwhelming time for victims and their loved ones. In this post, our Missouri workers' compensation lawyers answer five questions we often hear from injured employees.

1. How do I know if I'm covered by the Missouri workers' compensation system?

Under state law, the majority of Missouri employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance to cover their employees. If a business employs five or more workers, the employer must carry workers' comp insurance. Businesses in the construction industry must carry insurance if they employ one or more workers. (To find out more about what kind of businesses are considered part of the construction industry, click here.) Missouri law does provide exemptions for farm laborers, domestic servants and occasional laborers in private residences, real estate agents and direct sellers, certain inmates, certain volunteers, and certain individuals who serve amateur youth programs.

2. I've been injured at work: what are the first steps I should take?

First and foremost, be sure to report your injury to your employer (in writing) as soon as possible. Failing to report an injury within 30 days following its occurrence can jeopardize your right to workers' compensation benefits. You'll need to include the following information: your name and address; where the injury occurred; the date it occurred; and the nature of the injury. Keep a dated copy for your own records. It's also paramount that you seek immediate medical attention so your injuries can be assessed and documented by a physician.

3. How long do I have to file a workers' compensation claim?

First, please note that filing a workers' comp claim is completely different than reporting the injury to your employer. If you wish to file a claim, you must do so directly with the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation. Claims must be filed within two years of the date of your injury, or, if you received workers' comp benefits following your injury, within two years following the date of the last payment you received. (If your employer failed to report your injury to the division in a "timely fashion," the time period is extended to three years.)

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Missouri employees are entitled to safe workplace conditions

October 23, 2013

caution-2-582000-m.jpgAs workers' compensation lawyers, we know that Missouri employees sometimes suffer injuries because their employers have failed to provide a safe working environment. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required "to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers."

Recently, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) announced that it had cited a Missouri glass plant - and imposed sizeable fines - after an employee lost a finger while on the job. According to the Insurance Journal, OSHA investigators cited Piramal Glass USA in Park Hills, Missouri, in connection with 21 safety and health violations related to the accident. The Administration has proposed fines that total $137,400.

OSHA officials say an employee at the Piramal plant lost a finger while performing maintenance on a machine that had not been isolated from its energy source. "An employer's failure to power off energy sources before conducting equipment maintenance is unacceptable," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, in an official news release. "Amputation hazards are one of the leading causes of injuries in manufacturing, which companies must address to curb preventable injuries."

Following an investigation, the business was cited for several violations that jeopardized its employees' safety, including the following:

• Thirteen serious safety violations, including unguarded floor holes, missing railings, and the failure to provide e-stop devices on lathes, grinding, drilling and milling machines.
• Five serious health violations, including a lack of a noise monitoring program, failing to ensure that employees used hearing protection equipment, failing to provide personal protective equipment and barrier guards for their employees, and failing to maintain clean, dry floors in areas where employees work.
• Two other-than-serious violations for failing to identify machinery on audit reports and failing to inspect fire extinguishers.
• One repeat violation for improperly mounting metallic receptacle boxes to a firm surface. Piramal was previously cited for the same violation in October 2010.

If you have concerns about unsafe conditions in your workplace, you should be aware that you have certain rights under federal law:

• You are entitled to information and training related to potential workplace hazards, safety practices, and OSHA standards related to your work environment (and this information and training must be provided in a language you can understand).
• You can request an official workplace inspection from OSHA.
• You can view copies of any results from tests conducted to detect potentially hazardous conditions in your workplace.
• You can view records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
• You cannot be punished or discriminated against for exercising any or all of these rights.

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