July 2011 Archives

Are Complications Arising From Surgery Covered by Missouri Workers' Compensation?

Missouri Workers' Compensation lawyers were pleased to see a favorable outcome for an injured employee in the case of Proffer v. Federal Mogul Corp., No. SD30871. In this Missouri Worker's Comp case, a maintenance worker for a piston manufacturer was injured pushing a 55 gallon drum up a ramp. When a wheel somehow fell into a hole in the ramp, the worker twisted and strained his neck. In the aftermath of this injury, he had various symptoms including numbness, neck pain and headache.

Although this sounds like an open and shut Workers' Compensation case, it was not at all.

117629_surgery.jpgThis worker was referred to an orthopedic surgeon by his employer. A "cervical fusion" was performed on him. After this surgery, he had dizziness and nausea.

His employer authorized a referral to an orthopedic surgeon, who advised a cervical fusion. (This is a neurosurgical procedure involving the stabilization of two or more vertebrae by locking them together by fusing them.) After surgery, the worker experienced dizziness and nausea. When the worker requested that his employer authorize further treatment--he was refused--and told to seek care on his own.

Next the worker saw a neurosurgeon, who stated that a cervical interface had not solidly fused during the first surgery. The neurosurgeon performed a second fusion surgery on the worker, but his symptoms only decreased. They were never fully alleviated. He was never capable of returning to work because of his dizziness, nausea, and numbness in his arms. He could not perform his job functions as he had difficulty walking, sitting, or sleeping for extended periods of time.

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Missouri Workers Comp Lawyers Discuss the Question--Can I Sue If I Have Been Fired for Reporting an Injury?

1090105_stitching_together_a_wound_1.jpgMissouri Workers' Compensation lawyers were recently asked about whether or not an employee has the right to sue his employer--if the employee is fired for reporting a work related injury.

We took a good look at the case in question, which took place in Ohio. In this particular case, a machine shop employee was fired approximately one hour after reporting to his employer that he had received a workplace injury. No reason was given for his termination.

Sound like suspicious timing? We agree...

However, not only did the worker claim workers' compensation benefits; he also filed a "wrongful termination" suit against his employer. The burden of proof for the wrongful termination suit was on the employee (and his workers' compensation attorney). To win the suit, he needed to prove that his firing was in fact retaliation for reporting the injury, and that his employer had no business or work related justification for his termination.

The court's ruling held that the protection of the state's workers' compensation laws was in full effect in this case. Part of workers' compensation law is that an employer cannot punish the employee for having or reporting an injury. Any punishment that comes before the actual injury claim is filed is inappropriate; an obvious attempt to avoid paying benefits. Therefore, the court ruled that the worker does have the right to sue his employer.

But, this case will wind up in the state's Supreme Court, with the worker attempting to prove the only reason for his termination was reporting the injury. We hope he had a good work record, because any lateness, sloppiness, write-ups for previous issues, or other trouble at work could seriously hinder his case.

If this Workers' Compensation case took place in Missouri:

The Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 287--Workers' Compensation Law Section 287.780 clearly explains that termination occurring because and employee exercised his/her workers' compensation rights is not only prohibited, but grounds for civil action for damages.

Although each state has their own workers' compensation laws, they do provide similar protections for workers' nationwide. This Ohio case is a perfect example of how even though the law clearly covers work-related injuries, many workers' compensation cases are not as cut and dried as one might hope.

For more information about your rights to compensation for job related injuries, as a Missouri employee, visit the Missouri Department of Labor, Division of Workers' Compensation for more information. You will find their site is written in plain English, and it is easy to understand your rights.

Make sure your rights are protected if you suffer a workplace or otherwise work-related injury; and that you receive all the benefits you are entitled to under Missouri law. These laws are in place to protect you--the worker.

If you have been injured at work, your case might proceed without any hindrance from your employer or their insurance carrier. Most Missouri employers understand and accept their responsibilities to their employees. However, if you are finding any difficulty or confusion about your case, or are having trouble getting benefits or medical treatment, it is always wise to consult with a Missouri Workers' Compensation Lawyer.

Truck Driver Injured During Tornado Wins Workers' Compensation Case

525905_bad_weather.jpgMissouri Workers' Compensation Lawyers like to keep up with workers' compensation cases not just here in Missouri, but nationwide. We have heard of a particularly unique workers' comp trial, which might be of interest to Missouri residents and particularly residents of Joplin, in the wake of May's deadly tornado.

In Tennessee, a truck driver who was injured when his truck was hit by a tornado won his claim for benefits in a workers' compensation case that somehow made it all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. (Dixon v. Travelers Indemnity Co.)

The case hinged on the fact that the injury, which happened while he was performing his job, was due to an uncontrollable force of nature. In Tennessee, the employee must prove the injury happened due to increased risk specific to the nature of his employment--and not a danger common to the general public at the place and time it happened.

Here's what actually happened:

Driving an 18-wheel tractor-trailer in heavy traffic, a trucker encountered a storm with intense wind and rain. Slowing his speed, he attempted to get off at the next exit, but traffic was backed up by everyone else who had the same idea and was trying to get off the highway. He headed for the next exit. Driving along, he came across either a billboard or exit sign blowing across the highway, and slowed his speed even further.

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Employee's Denial of Prior Injury Disqualifies Him From Workers' Compensation Benefits

In every article we write about Missouri Workers' Compensation, we stress the importance of honesty to your employer, doctor, and attorneys about your injury and previous injuries. Why is this so important?

There will usually be a question about previous injuries on a patient intake form or other medical documents. According to Missouri Workers' Compensation laws, denial of a pre-existing injury or illness may disqualify you from receiving the benefits you need to take care of your injury. If you don't understand what reporting a previous injury has to do with a current work injury, let us spell it out for you:

33788_arthiritic_hands.jpg• First, you are being dishonest, which casts suspicion on your entire claim.
• Second, if you already have an injury, it needs to be determined how much of your current symptoms are related to the new injury, or leftover from the old. If the new injury compounds an old one, you may be eligible for extra benefits from the Second Injury Fund.

Here is a case in point. (Although this case happened in New York State, it might very well have had the same outcome in Missouri courts.)

In the case of Poli v. Taconic Correctional Facility, et al., No. 510991, a correction officer injured his lower back, neck, shoulder, and limbs after a fall at work. He informed his employer, and then sought workers' compensation benefits. On his patient intake form, he denied any history of back injury. However, evidence showed that he previously suffered multiple non-work-related herniated disks in his lower back. He had already missed three months of work resulting from that injury.

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OSHA Updates Walking and Working Surface Regulations to Help Prevent Fall Accidents and On the Job Injuries in Missouri and Elsewhere

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is going to make some changes to their rules and regulations to help prevent work accidents. This change was first announced in the Federal Register back in May. The changes will require employers to enlist improved protection on their work sites to help to prevent trips, slips and falls by eliminating potential hazards on walking and working surfaces.

After a public comment period, there will be a public hearing held on these revised changes. These changes are being made in an attempt to reduce the numbers of serious -- and fatal -- fall work accidents in Missouri and elsewhere throughout the country.
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"This proposal addresses workplace hazards that are a leading cause of work related injuries and deaths," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

Our Missouri worker's compensation attorneys understand that new rules and regulations will continue to address concerns as technology and demands in these industries continue to advance. It is important for all employers to be up-to-date with the latest safety recommendations to help to prevent work injuries, to save the lives of their workers and to possibly avoid any costly fines or citations from OSHA.

The notice of proposed rulemaking describes the revisions that will be made to the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards. These standards have been set into place by OSHA to help prevent fall injuries. It is estimated that 20 workplace fatalities occur each year from falls on work surfaces. It is also estimated that more than 3,500 fall accidents cause injuries serious enough to cause a worker to miss days at work.

"This is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored or inadequate," said Michaels. "The loss of a worker's life might have been prevented if the protective measures in these revised standards had been in place and in use."

According to the most recent walking-working surfaces regulations, employers are to eliminate outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment. This type of equipment includes lanyards and body belts. These protection devices can result in workers suffering even worse injury from falls. So far, construction and maritime workers already have safer, more effective fall protection devices. They are required to already use self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems. The updates in OSHA rules would require that these proposed revisions be mandatory for general industry workers as well.

OSHA is not able to fine employers who allow their workers to climb certain ladders without fall protection under the current walking-working surfaces standards. With these new rules and regulations set forth, this restriction would no longer apply to any industry and OSHA would be able to issue citation to employers who lack this fall protection and to those who are jeopardizing their worker's safety. Climbing these ladders without the proper fall protection can produce serious injuries or even deadly consequences.

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Are You Compensated for an Injury if You Work at Home Under Missouri's Workers' Comp Laws?

957818_sewing.jpgNowadays Missouri Workers' Compensation Lawyers are seeing more and more cases of injuries to an employee who works out of their home, as this type of arrangement is becoming more and more popular. The laptop has revolutionized office work, allowing people to do their jobs from just about anywhere.

Many employees are now doing some of their work in the office, and some at home. This is particularly popular with moms who want to spend more time with their children, but need to earn a living. Many Missourians are working entirely from home, as in the case of "piece workers" who do sewing, and many other jobs.

Accidents and injuries that occur at home are not always as cut-and-dried as accidents that happen at an office, factory or other "regular" work location. Therefore, they can be more difficult to win if contested by your employer. Usually, there are no witnesses to vouch for the injured party, and no way to determine that the employee was actually "on the clock" when it happened.

Here are OSHA's guidelines for these workers' compensation situations:

If the employee is performing work for their employer at home, and the injury or illness is directly related to the performance of that work--these injuries and illnesses are considered work related. Therefore, the employee is eligible for workers' compensation benefits.

Examples of work related home injuries that would be eligible for Missouri Workers' Comp include:

Repetitive motion injuries (such as carpal tunnel) as a direct result of many work hours on the computer.

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