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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Mold in the workplace: What Missouri employees need to know

September 27, 2013

mold-on-the-steps-986716-m.jpgWhen most people hear about a workers' compensation claim, they often think of accidents resulting in physical injuries like broken bones, back or neck injuries, or permanent disability. However, a workers' comp claim can also be connected to an occupational disease, which is defined as "a condition or illness caused by occupational exposure in the workplace." According to the Missouri Department of Labor, occupational diseases recognized by Missouri law include injuries caused by repetitive motion, loss of hearing due to workplace noise, and radiation disability. They may also include respiratory diseases caused by repeated exposure to certain workplace contaminants, including mold.

Basic facts about mold in the workplace:

• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that mold is a type of fungi that can be found both outdoors and indoors throughout the year. There are thousands of different species of mold.

• Every species of mold shares a common attribute: it can grow with only a spore ("a viable seed"), a nutrient source, moisture, and a suitable temperature. It does not need sunlight, which is why mold is most common in dark, damp areas.

• Mold can create and release millions of spores that pose a threat to human health. It can also produce toxic agents called mycotoxins, which is also known to have adverse effects on the human body.

• Most mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. However, mold commonly grows - and becomes a health threat - in indoor spaces where water damage, high humidity and/or dampness is present.

• Symptoms of mold exposure vary dramatically, depending on the person. OSHA officials say the people most at risk are children and the elderly, along with those who suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis, and other respiratory conditions. People who have weakened immune systems are also at high risk for mold-related illnesses.

How Missouri workers can protect themselves from mold-related illnesses:

• If you are concerned that you're developing health problems associated with mold exposure in your work environment, you should report those concerns to your supervisor as soon as possible. Employers are required by law to provide a safe, healthy working environment for their employees.

Officials at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) strongly advise that you seek immediate treatment from a medical professional, who can diagnose and evaluate your symptoms and determine whether you should be medically restricted from your work environment.

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OSHA cites Missouri company for serious safety violations following fatal workplace accident

September 11, 2013

high-voltage-7-985260-m.jpgBusinesses have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their employees. When workplace conditions cause workers to suffer serious injuries while in the course of their duties, the employer is liable for certain costs associated with those injuries - and the business may also be subject to citations and fines from federal authorities who create standards for workplace safety.

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it was proposing over $50,000 in fines for a St. Louis business after an employee was fatally injured last May. According to OSHA officials, the fines are connected to safety violations that were discovered when the Administration investigated the death of 55 year-old Mach Nguyen, who was employed by St. Louis Cold Drawn Inc. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Nguyen was electrocuted when he reached into an energized electrical panel box, attempting to grab his work gloves. He was taken to a local hospital by ambulance, where he was later pronounced dead.

Following Nguyen's death, OSHA launched an investigation into St. Louis Cold Drawn, a steel bar manufacturing facility that employs about 90 workers. They found a number of safety violations that increased safety risks for the company's employees. Overall, the business was cited for 19 serious violations, many of which were connected to electrical issues, including exposing employees to live electricity and failing to train employees about safe practices and lookout procedures when they may be exposed to electric shock. "Allowing workers to be exposed to live electricity without enforcing electrical safe work practices is inexcusable," said Bill McDonald, area director for OSHA in St. Louis, in an official news release. "Employers, such as St. Louis Cold Drawn, have a responsibility to train workers in safe electrical work practices, such as recognizing unsafe conditions when exposed to hazards."

In addition to the serious violations, OSHA investigators also cited the company for seven "other-than-serious violations," which include failing to keep appropriate records of employees' illnesses and injuries and failing to keep a list of the hazardous chemicals used in the course of business. St. Louis Cold Drawn has 15 days to address and rectify the violations, request a conference with OSHA area director Thompson, or contest the safety violations and their penalties. In 2002, the company was cited by OSHA for seven safety violations at its St. Louis facility.

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How do other kinds of benefits impact Missouri workers' compensation claims?

weldingworker.jpgOur Missouri workers' compensation attorneys know that many seemingly simple workers' comp cases can become much more complex when other government benefits and agencies are involved. If you are receiving other kinds of benefits at the time you suffer a Missouri work-related injury, your claim might become extremely complicated too. In this post, we discuss some other benefits or situations which might complicate your workers' compensation claim.

• Unemployment benefits: Employees are disqualified from receiving workers' comp disability benefits if they are receiving unemployment compensation. If you do somehow receive workers' comp checks while you are collecting unemployment benefits, be aware that you will be required to pay back the workers' comp disability benefits.

• Medicare: If the injured employee is covered by Medicare at the time of the accident, or will be eligible for Medicare within thirty days from the date of the accident, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, must be notified. There are a lot of factors involved which can delay or hinder a claim once Medicare is involved. Try to get CMS involved as soon as possible to avoid long delays.

• Social Security Disability: If you believe you will not be able to return to work for more than a year, or if you have become permanently disabled as a result of your on-the-job injury, then you need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits immediately. This system is completely different than the Missouri workers' compensation system, and it can take two to three years to start receiving benefits. In addition, each government agency requires has a different burden of proof that must be met in order for the agency to approve your claim. In other words, just because you qualify for workers' compensation doesn't mean you will also qualify for SSD benefits. Furthermore, any disability money you receive from your workers' comp claim might lower the amount of SSD benefits you're eligible for. Under these circumstances, it's often beneficial to retain a workers' comp attorney who is familiar with this type of case.

• MO HealthNet Payments: Following your workplace injury, if you receive any medical care that is paid for by MO HealthNet, you may have to reimburse them once you receive your workers' comp settlement award. Bear this in mind, and discuss it with your employer's insurance carrier so you will understand exactly how to handle this situation.

• Child Support: If you are paying court-mandated child support, a work injury does not excuse you from making the legally required payments. Instead, the insurance company is required by Missouri law to give a portion of your benefits to whomever the child support is owed.

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Governor Nixon signs legislation to address Missouri's failing Second Injury Fund

wheelchair.jpgRecently, Governor Jay Nixon signed new legislation that works to help fund Missouri's financially struggling Second Injury Fund (SIF). The SIF is designed to cover employees who have pre-existing injuries or disabilities and suffer from additional work-related injuries. It is funded by a surcharge on employers' workers' compensation premiums, which was capped at three percent in 2005. Currently, the SIF owes more than $32 million in initial payments and has an account balance of $9.3 million, and lawmakers say the 2005 cap on the surcharge has contributed to the SIF's insolvency. The new legislation raises the surcharge percentage and increases revenue at a steady rate that can keep up with the fluctuating annual expenses of the program.

The new legislation (Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville) will temporarily raise businesses' SIF surcharge to six percent, starting January 1, 2014 and continuing through 2021. Governor Nixon says the higher surcharge will help increase revenue and allow the state to begin making several initial payments for claims. "I appreciate the bipartisan efforts of lawmakers and stakeholders to craft a fair solution to a difficult, complex and long running-problem," Nixon said in a statement. "Shoring up the Second Injury Fund will provide long-overdue certainty to businesses and security to injured workers."

Critics of the bill fear the three percent increase in surcharge will not be enough to cover all of the fund's expenses. Also, some have expressed concerns that the program will begin to disperse initial payments, but run out of funding too quickly to continue making payments in the long run.

Besides helping disabled workers, this legislation is also aims to help employers. The 2005 changes in workers' compensation law resulted in more court expenses for businesses, causing employers to rely more heavily on the court system instead of resolving claims through a more administrative process.. However, the new legislation redefines what work related injuries and diseases are covered under workers' compensation. The bill reduces court expenses by making it easier for employees to prove that an injury was work-related, which helps reduce legal costs for employers while still providing benefits to injured workers.

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Dealing with a workplace injury: Tips and info for Missouri workers

1123374_industrial_-_factory_2.jpgIf you or a loved one has been injured on the job in Missouri, you may be hesitant about taking legal action because you're concerned about the impact it could have on your employment. Many injured workers worry that litigation will ruin their working relationship, while others are reluctant to deal with the stress of what can be a lengthy process.

However, under state law, the Missouri workers' compensation system is the exclusive remedy for damages and losses associated with workplace injuries. This means you do not need to sue your employer to recover financial compensation for your injuries and lost wages - in fact, in the vast majority of cases, you legally can't sue your employer. Any damages you suffer will be remedied through the worker's compensation system, not by filing a personal injury claim in civil court.

Workers' compensation involves a tradeoff for both employers and employees.
When you suffer an on-the-job injury, you're entitled to workers' compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault for your accident, but you are not permitted to sue your employer for negligence. In turn, your employer can't be subjected to a lawsuit, but your employer cannot assert any legal defenses to your claim for workers' compensation.

To be eligible for workers' compensation, your injury must have occurred within the course and scope of your employment.
So long as you were acting within the scope of your employment when your injury occurred, you are covered by workers' compensation. In other words, you're covered if you were injured in the course of performing your job duties. Be aware, however, that workers' compensation benefits are usually not available to employees who are injured while commuting to or from their workplace, under what is known as the "going and coming" rule.

Workers' compensation insurance is required for most employers.
Employers who have five or more employees are required by law to carry workers' compensation insurance. Employers in the construction industry must have workers' comp insurance if they have one or more employees. The law does provide exemptions for certain kinds of employees (section 287.090 RSMo), including farm laborers, domestic servants, certain real estate agents and direct sellers, and commercial motor-carrier owner operations

Workers compensation benefits are designed to cover your medical expenses, lost wages and permanent disability following a workplace injury.
Workers' comp benefits should cover your doctor visits, physical therapy appointments, hospitalization, and all other medical expenses medically necessary to diagnose and treat your work injury. If your injury prevents you from returning to work or from performing certain tasks, you may also be entitled to disability benefits.

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Businesses use "ghost policies" to escape workers' compensation costs, leaving workers at risk

February 26, 2013

304930_construction_site.jpgMissouri workers' compensation law exists to protect and support employees who are injured in the course of their employment. However, when businesses don't hold up their end of the bargain, innocent workers are left to face the many consequences of their injuries, which can include numerous medical expenses, lost wages, and the inability to return to work.

Recently, a state audit conducted in North Carolina revealed that the state's Industrial Commission has failed to recognize and address a growing problem: "businesses openly skirting their responsibility to carry [workers' compensation] insurance." The audit followed a three part series published in 2012 by the Charlotte News & Observer, which exposed the consequences of these illegal practices and their impact on both injured employees and other honest employers who comply with state law.

In part, the News and Observer's series highlighted the story of Clemente Hernandez Gonzalez, a North Carolina construction worker who was injured on the job in March 2009. Gonzalez was a passenger in a company vehicle when the driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. As a result, Gonzalez suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. The Observer reported that the estimated cost of Gonzalez's lifetime medical treatment is nearly $8 million.

State workers' compensation systems exist to protect employees in circumstances just like this one. However, following the accident, Gonzalez discovered that his employer, Worrell Construction Co., had taken advantage of a loophole in state law. In North Carolina, businesses that employ three or more workers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. To skirt this requirement, the owner of Worrell Construction purchased what is known as a ghost policy.

Ghost policies are intended for business owners who have no employees and who opt to exclude themselves from workers' compensation coverage. These cheap policies are supposed to cover a "future" employee who may be hired in the coming year. For the first nine years Worrell Construction was in business, the company paid about $30,000 a year for full workers' compensation coverage. Then, in 2006, Worrell reclassified its employees as "subcontractors," told an insurer it had no employees, and purchased a ghost policy. The yearly premium for that policy? A mere $850.

General contractors require subcontractors to present proof of workers' comp coverage before beginning a job. But the News & Observer says the certificates for ghost policies "look no different from other policies, however, and are tough, if not impossible, for those hiring the company to detect." Thus, the business saves thousands of dollars, and no one is the wiser. That is, unless an employee - like Gonzalez - is injured on the job.

Gonzalez's existing medical bills already exceed $250,000, and he has not yet received a dime. He is currently involved in litigation against Worrell; Worrell's insurer, Cincinnati Insurance; and Patrick Lamm, a general contractor who hired Worrell. Lamm says he had no idea Worrell did not have full coverage. Worrell shut down on the day of Gonzalez's accident, and the North Carolina Industrial Commission will charge the company with criminal fraud if it attempts to resume operations.

And there's another consequence of this kind of legal loophole. Companies that pay tens of thousands for workers' comp coverage can't compete with cheating businesses that pay significantly less in insurance premiums. According to the News & Observer, "those who play by the rules say they struggle to stay afloat while competitors who break the law profit."

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Missouri temporary workers are entitled to safety and health protection from employers

February 19, 2013

file0001829935472.jpgA temporary worker is an employee who is hired to fill a specific position for a limited amount of time. Also known as "temps," "contract workers," and "seasonal employees," temporary workers are often hired to help with increased demand or seasonal business that is common in certain industries. Certain employees working for subcontractors - a laborer, hired to work on a specific construction project, for example - are also considered temporary workers. Despite their temporary status on the job, temp workers are entitled to the same basic safety and health protections as permanent employees.

Recently, officials from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Bacardi Bottling Corp. for 12 safety violations after a temporary worker was killed during his first day at work. According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, 21 year-old Lawrence Daquan "Day" Davis died when he was crushed by a palletizer machine in August 2012. Davis was reportedly cleaning glass from under the machine when another employee restarted the machine.

OSHA officials say Bacardi failed to provide temporary workers with adequate training to operate the palletizer machine. The company was also cited for exposing workers to safety hazards, failing to ensure safety devices were in place, and failing to develop and implement appropriate safety procedures. Two of the 12 violations are considered willful, meaning "committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard" for workplace safety laws. Nine others are considered "serious," meaning there was a "substantial probability" that Bacardi's practices would cause serious workplace injuries, and that the company knew or should have known that its employees were at risk.

"We are seeing untrained workers - many of them temporary workers - killed very soon after starting a new job. This must stop," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, in an OSHA news release. "Employers must train all employees, including temporary workers, on the hazards specific to that workplace - before they start working. Had Bacardi done so, this tragic loss of life could have been prevented."

Employers are legally required to provide a safe workplace environment for all their employees. If you're currently employed as a temporary worker and you've been exposed to a hazard that threatens your health or safety, you can file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection. And if you've been injured as a result of a workplace hazard, it may be beneficial to speak with an attorney about a workers' compensation claim. For more information about workplace safety and temporary workers, visit the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) online.

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Q & A: Filing a workers' compensation claim in Missouri

February 11, 2013

885334_healthcare_upclose.jpgAs personal injury lawyers, we know that the Missouri workers' compensation system can be confusing and intimidating to the victims of workplace injuries 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).

Q: Do I need to hire a lawyer?
A: Workers' compensation claims can present numerous complications, especially when an injury results in disability or necessitates long-term medical treatment. An attorney can review the unique factors associated with your claim and ensure that your rights and interests are represented. Most personal injury lawyers - including our firm - offer a free initial consultation, so it won't cost anything to speak with an attorney and find out more about your legal options.

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Preventing workplace falls on Missouri construction sites: Plan, provide & train

February 4, 2013

Thumbnail image for 1057448_ladder_and_sky.jpgIt's common for Missouri construction workers to work at elevated levels, using ladders or other equipment to reach desired heights. Sadly, many falls happen on job sites each year: fall-related injuries and fatalities happen more often in construction than in any other industry. Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reveals that falls are the number one cause of death in construction. In 2010, 255 construction workers were killed in falls while working from heights, and over 10,000 workers were injured. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that workplace falls "constitute a considerable financial burden: workers' compensation and medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents have been estimated at approximately $70 billion annually in the United States."

The frequency of workplace falls in the construction industry has prompted OSHA, in partnership with NIOSH, to develop a fall prevention campaign. This campaign is designed to "provide employers and workers with life-saving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs," according to an OSHA news release. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis stressed that many workplace falls are preventable, provided contractors and construction workers implement fall prevention practices. "Falls are the most fatal out of all hazards in the construction industry, accounting for almost one in every three construction worker deaths," Secretary Solis said. "Our simple message is that safety pays, and falls cost."

OSHA and NIOSH have coordinated with the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) program to create some basic fall prevention tips. The campaign provides various materials to promote three core messages (plan, provide, and train).

• Contractors and workers can plan together, before every job, to work safely at heights.
• Contractors must provide the right equipment for working at heights, and workers need to use that equipment.
• Contractors and workers need to be trained to use the equipment and to work safely.

Multiple factors can contribute to workplace falls, including the following:

• Walking/working surfaces that are wet, cluttered, or unstable
• Unprotected edges
• Floor holes and wall openings
• Unsafely positioned ladders
• Misused fall protection/poor fall protection training

"We have often heard the old adage, 'Plan your work and work your plan,'" said R. Ronald Sokol, president and CEO of Safety Council Texas City, in a recent interview with NIOSH eNews. "This statement is the foundation of the risk management philosophy to eliminate falls from heights. Without proper planning, workers are placed in a reactive mode based on their limited knowledge plus experience and expertise. Proper planning is used to greatly limit fall exposure."

For more information about workplace fall prevention, visit StopConstructionFalls.com.

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What research reveals about workplace injuries in Missouri, nationwide

January 26, 2013

1003297_workman_sign.jpgRecent research has provided both employers and employees alike with specific data concerning workplace injuries: where they happen, why they happen, and how often they happen. When examined together, these studies provide an overview of American occupational health - and some of the findings might surprise you.

What kinds of jobs are the most dangerous?

Federal data reveals that workers at nursing and residential care facilities report the highest incidence rate of non-fatal workplace injuries, at 14.7 injuries per 100 full time workers. Other industries with high injury rates include travel trailer and camper manufacturing, fire protection, skiing facilities and iron foundries. Surprisingly, workers at petroleum refineries were at the other end of the list, reporting 0.7 injuries per 100 full time workers. In terms of fatal workplace incidents, fishing workers, logging workers, pilots and farmers reported the highest death rates.

Does geography affect workplace injury incidence rates?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 3.1 million nonfatal workplace injuries reported by Americans in 2010, meaning the overall U.S. incidence rate is about 3.5 injuries per 100 full-time workers. An estimated 59,000 U.S. workers died in 2007, while approximately 44,000 Americans died in car accidents; 41,000 died of breast cancer; and about 29,000 died of prostate cancer.

In terms of individual states, Maine has the highest injury incidence rate on record, with about 5.6 injuries per 100 full time workers. In contrast, Washington D.C. has the lowest injury rate at only 1.9 injuries per 100 full time workers. Missouri, Utah, New Mexico, Alabama and Florida are the only other states that have reported incidence rates lower than the national average.

How much do workplace injuries cost the United States?

A 2012 study revealed that injuries and illnesses contracted at work cost the U.S. approximately $250 billion dollars per year. That's $31 billion more than all direct and indirect costs associated with all forms of cancer. It's also $76 billion more than costs associated with diabetes, and $187 billion more than expenses associated with strokes.

"It's unfortunate that occupational health doesn't get the attention it deserves," said author J. Paul Leigh, professor of public health sciences at the University of California, Davis. "The costs are enormous and continue to grow. And the potential for health risks are high, given that most people between the ages 22 to 65 spend 40 percent of their waking hours at work."

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