OSHA Warns Outdoor Workers About Risks of Heat-Related Illnesses & Fatalities

The summer months in Missouri are hot and dangerous for outdoor workers, who risk serious heat illnesses as temperatures rise. In particular, construction workers, agriculture workers, and utility workers will want to take precautions to protect themselves from heat stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat stress occurs when the body cannot cool itself normally because its temperature control system is overloaded. In extreme cases, when a person's body temperature gets too high, heat illness can cause serious personal injury, including damage to the brain and other vital organs. In light of these risks, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is campaigning to bring awareness to workers and employers about heat illness prevention.

682474_thermo_4.jpgDespite increased awareness of the dangers heat can pose, many deaths have been caused by improper protection from heat stress in the workplace. According to the United States Labor Department, heat-related illnesses strike thousands of employees every summer, resulting in an average of over 30 worker deaths each year.

Although many heat-related illnesses are directly linked to working outdoors in hot conditions, other injuries can also be provoked by dehydration or sweaty palms. Special training and planning is needed to ensure that employees are protected under these conditions. When employers don't take action to prevent occupational heat exposure, they place their employees at risk for physical harm. Workers who experience any symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat cramps, or heat rash should seek medical attention immediately.

OSHA has started a national campaign to educate employers and employees about the risks associated with summer weather. It is vital that care is taken to prevent serious personal injuries connected to heat, according to Dr. David Michaels, assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "It is essential for workers and employers to take proactive steps to stay safe in extreme heat, and become aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion," Dr. Michaels said in an OSHA news release. The Administration also emphasizes the importance of abundant "water, rest, and shade" to safeguard outdoor workers' physical health.

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OSHA Extends Directive Working to Prevent Residential Construction Falls

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OHSA) decided to extend temporary enforcement measures connected to its residential fall protection directive. The directive, issued in June 2011, works to prevent residential builders from bypassing fall protection requirements. It was originally scheduled to end in March 2012, but will now extend up to September 15.

1173744_new_houses.jpgThe directive replaced another plan dating back to 1995, which was issued as a temporary policy because of concerns about the feasibility of fall protection in this industry. But then several organizations recognized a need to revisit the issue, including the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); OSHA's labor-management Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health; the AFL-CIO; and the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association. These organizations represent the 27 states and territories that organize and enforce their own occupational safety and health programs. Experts feel that feasibility is no longer a concern or an issue, as there continues to be an outrageous number of fatal falls in construction accidents in Missouri and elsewhere throughout the United States.

"Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction. We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said last year. "Almost every week, we see a worker killed from falling off a residential roof. We can stop these fatalities, and we must."

OSHA's actions rescinded the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction, Standard 03-00-001. Before the 2011 directive, construction employees were allowed to use specific alternative methods to protect themselves from falls occurring on construction sites. These alternatives replaced conventional fall protection methods that were previously required by the residential construction fall protection standard.

Now, employers are required to comply with 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.501(b)(13).

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Green Jobs & OSHA Safety Standards: What Employees Should Know

1226370_recycle_sign.jpgIn today's world, many businesses and private citizens are "going green," in an attempt to help preserve our planet. They're recycling, driving more environmentally friendly vehicles and watching their consumption of natural resources. What's more, there are a growing number of "green jobs" being chased after by states looking to improve their economic outlook. Not only do these green jobs help to create a better community for everyone, but they also create new employment opportunities.

According to a recent report from Forbes, the website SimplyHired.com is currently listing about 4,000 jobs that are tagged with the keyword "environmental compliance" - that's a 24% increase compared to August 2010. Even more staggering, the site lists approximately 11,000 jobs associated with "energy efficiency," which marks a 500% increase compared to November 2009. Suffice to say, the green industry is continuing to grow.

Unfortunately, however, with new jobs come new risks. The Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration (OSHA) has expressed concerns that while these companies focus on the preservation of our planet, they may also present certain unique hazards that can result in workplace injuries.

Risks associated with the green industry are of special concern because the industry has experienced such explosive growth in recent years. Some of these new jobs could potentially expose workers to new hazards that may have not been previously identified in other industries. For example, a worker in a solar energy plant may be exposed to Cadmium Telluride, a known carcinogen, if the factory does not implement adequate controls.

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Safety Violations & Workplace Deaths: OSHA Investigation Process Questioned

1123374_industrial_-_factory_2.jpgIn 2009 alone, 4,551 American employees were killed on the job - which means more Americans died in the workplace during a single year than have died during the entire war in Iraq, according to a recent investigative report from iWatch News, a publication from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). When you also consider the estimated 50,000 employees who die of occupational diseases every year, the report continues, "it's as if a fully loaded Boeing 737-700 crashed every day" in 2009.

In particular, the report addresses the death of 32 year-old Nick Revetta, a Pennsylvania worker who died in a gas explosion at U.S. Steel in 2009. Revetta sustained a fatal head injury as a result of the explosion, which threw him backwards into a steel column. He left behind a wife and two young children.

Revetta's death was investigated by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but the company was never fined or even cited for a workplace safety violation. Even more shockingly, Michael Laughlin, the safety inspector assigned to Revetta's case, was ignored when he sent email messages requesting help from his superiors.

Some have blamed OSHA's quota system for lapses like this one. In 2012, OSHA set a "target goal" of 42,250 safety inspections to be performed nationwide - a 5.6% increase from the 2011 target. In comparison, the total number of OSHA inspectors has remained consistent in recent years. Inspectors, then, must manage their increasing inspection "goals" along with comprehensive inspections performed in the event of a workplace death.

"My problem is at what point do we give up quality for quantity," Laughlin wrote his superior regarding Revetta's death in 2009. "I need some guidance because I'm torn and my spirit is broken because of the need to complete this case to the best of my ability." His supervisor's response, according to iWatch News, advised Laughlin to "go out and hit some [golf] balls!"

In particular, Laughlin was asking for direction regarding the numerous federal rules that are designed to prevent fires, explosions and chemical leaks in work environments: he asked OSHA to send someone with specialized training in this area, but his requests were never granted.

After two months, OSHA's Philadelphia office removed Laughlin from the case: in end, an insulation contractor was the only one cited for a violation. The contractor paid $10,763 in fines that were not connected to the explosion in any way. Then, only 10 months after the explosion that killed Revetta, another explosion at U.S. Steel injured 17 workers.

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Bill Preventing Co-Worker Lawsuits Passes Missouri General Assembly: Occupational Diseases & Second Injury Fund Left in Limbo

1221952_to_sign_a_contract_3.jpgOn Tuesday afternoon, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill that will prohibit employees from suing their co-workers for on-the-job injuries. The legislation would only allow employees to sue co-workers when "the accident was the result of gross negligence or an intentional act of harm," says the Springfield News-Leader. The bill was passed in the Missouri House by a vote of 122 - 29, and the Senate unanimously approved it within the same day. Now, it awaits Governor Nixon's approval.

However, the bill does not address two pressing issues that directly affect the Missouri workers' compensation system: (1) the struggling Second Injury Fund; and (2) the process for treating deadly work-related diseases. It appears that these issues will not be addressed until next year.

Earlier this year, Governor Nixon vetoed legislation that addressed all three subjects. In his veto letter, Nixon said his primary concern is connected to occupational diseases, and his worry that the workers' compensation system cannot "adequately compensate workers for debilitating diseases that will eventually take their lives, and [that] such cases should be handled by civil courts, as they now are," according to Columbia Daily Tribune. Occupational diseases are chronic ailments contracted through the workplace, such as mesothelioma and lead poisoning.

After vetoing the proposed bill, however, Nixon sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey and Minority Leader Victor Callahan. In the letter, Nixon agreed to sign new workers' comp legislation, provided that those who suffer from occupational diseases would be awarded "enhanced benefits" - meaning they would receive larger weekly payments than injured workers.

In response, Dempsey reportedly proposed that those workers be paid 200% of the state's average weekly wage for 200 weeks, which would equate to a settlement around $300,000. Nixon's offer, according to Dempsey, would have paid closer to $700,000 to employees who suffer from occupational diseases. "The governor's number was too high, so there you are," Dempsey said. Since a compromise couldn't be reached, it's likely that the issue will have to wait until the next legislative session.

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Workplace Injury Plus Medical Malpractice Equals a Complicated Case

391481_knee_x-ray_2.jpgNormally, workers' compensation claims are very different from medical malpractice cases. But what happens when medical malpractice results from treatment for an injury covered by workers' compensation?

This predicament can be unbelievably frustrating. It's upsetting enough to be injured and unable to work: when you feel you have an unsympathetic doctor who isn't treating you effectively, a tough time becomes even tougher. Seeing an injury worsen when you're expecting it to improve can be disheartening and even alarming - particularly when medical bills are continuing to pile up.

So, can an injured employee sue a workers' comp doctor (who is typically selected by the employer) for medical malpractice? It's a complicated question. In fact, it is nearly impossible to give a conclusive answer without reviewing the exact circumstances and medical records connected to a specific case. As our workers' compensation lawyers know, there are multiple factors that must be considered.

It's worth noting that in some states, workers' comp doctors cannot be sued for medical malpractice because the doctors are considered "co-employers." In other words, the doctors are covered by the same laws as the employer, meaning the workers' compensation system is the only way to address the malpractice.

In Missouri, however, a workers' comp doctor is considered a third party who can be subject to a lawsuit. And it's common for injured employees to question the methods of workers' compensation treating physicians, particularly when the recovery process is painful, expensive and time-consuming.

While it's true that there have been occurrences of medical malpractice in workers' comp cases, it's important to remember that malpractice has a very specific legal definition. For example, if your injury does not heal (or if it worsens over time), that is not necessarily a sign of medical malpractice. To win a malpractice suit, a plaintiff must prove 4 separate elements:

1. A duty of care was owed by the physician; 2. the physician violated the applicable standard of care; 3. the person suffered a compensable injury; and 4. the injury was caused in fact and proximately caused by the substandard conduct.

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Former St. Louis Rams Linebacker Files Lawsuit Connected to Missouri Workers' Compensation Claim

585059_football_1.jpgJamie Duncan, former linebacker for the St. Louis Rams, has filed a lawsuit in City Court against his former attorney, Mark L. Floyd of the Floyd Law Firm. The lawsuit is connected to a Missouri workers' compensation claim filed on Duncan's behalf: 5 years ago, Duncan alleges, Floyd advised him to sign a $1,000 settlement that included a waiver for any future medical benefits. Duncan's complaint argues that doing so ultimately cost him $255,000, reports the Courthouse News Service.

In 2007, when Duncan's initial claim was made, the Rams had offices in both St. Louis and Los Angeles, and Duncan's settlement was filed in the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation. In the years that followed, Duncan sought to collect benefits on new claims for cumulative orthopedic and closed head trauma. In that pursuit, he was represented by California attorney Ron Mix.

By March of 2011, the complaint says, "Mix had negotiated a tentative settlement wherein the St. Louis Rams would settle all pending workers' compensation claims of Jamie Duncan, plus a buy-out of future medical benefits for the sum of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000)."

Then, in May 2011, the Rams contacted Mix to inform him that Duncan had waived all future medical claims by agreeing to the Missouri settlement in 2007. Thus, the Rams "declined to offer any compensation to the plaintiff," the complaint continues. Mix was eventually able to settle Duncan's California claims for $45,000: since the Rams organization initially offered $300,000, Duncan is suing to recover the difference.

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Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Concerning Missouri's Failing Second Injury Fund

file5641297827287.jpgOn April 18, U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey granted a motion dismissing a lawsuit filed by 4 Missourians: injured workers who are owed awards from the state's failing Second Injury Fund (SIF). Originally, the SIF was created to provide benefits to employees with pre-existing conditions who are re-injured in the workplace. At present, it has 27,000 claims pending, while an additional 700 new claims are being filed every month. The problem? The fund is nearly bankrupt, and claimants are not being paid.

The SIF is subsidized by a surcharge imposed on employers' workers' compensation insurance premiums. Between 1943 and 1984, the SIF paid approximately $40 million in benefits to injured Missouri workers, according to the Columbia Missourian. However, in the 1980s, the Fund began to struggle with an increasing number of claims, and in 2005, a bill capped the surcharge at 3%. Since that time, workers' comp insurance premiums have dropped, but the cap only made a big problem even bigger, decreasing the already limited funds available. Audits performed in 2007 and 2010 offered stringent warnings, clearly indicating that the fund would go bankrupt within a few years if no action was taken.

Consequently, the Fund has presented a major problem for Missouri in recent years. In March 2011, Attorney General Chris Koster announced that the SIF would no longer pay out for new claims, effectively denying 200 injured workers approximately $15 million in funds - which brings us back to the aforementioned lawsuit. The action was filed on behalf of 4 of those injured workers who have not received their SIF awards: the plaintiffs argued that "the denial to pay violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as their employment contracts with former employers, right to due process and other laws," reports the Kansas City Business Journal.

Judge Laughrey, however, disagreed. In her ruling [Pettet v. May, No. 2:11-CV-04049-NKL (USDC W.D.Mo)], she granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the case, and denied the remaining motions as moot. Importantly, she found that the plaintiffs were not denied benefits because they were disabled, but because of the SIF's financial crisis: therefore, there was no violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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High-Priced Prescription Drugs Contribute $2.1 Billion to Workers' Compensation Costs in Missouri & Nationwide

file0002115296013.jpgBetween treatment, rehabilitation and medication costs, recovering from a workplace injury can become very expensive very quickly. In particular, the expense associated with certain prescription drugs cost the workers' compensation system billions of dollars in wasted pharmacy-related funds last year, according to the 2011 Express Scripts Workers' Compensation Drug Trend Report.

The report indicates that the use of expensive medication (instead of lower-costing, therapeutically equivalent drugs) accounted for approximately $2.1 billion in wasted funds. In addition, the workers' comp industry saw $107 million wasted due to the use of out-of-network pharmacies and third party billing; and $40 million wasted through the use of "higher-cost" delivery channels (like retail pharmacies) for long-term medication.

• 76.2% of total drug spending in 2011 was associated with the top six "therapy classes," which include narcotic analgesics, anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and dermatological medication.

• Narcotic analgesics have the highest annual cost per user ($508). This therapy class also accounts for approximately 38% of total drug spending and 34% of total utilization.

• 10% of total drug spending in 2011 was associated with the powerful painkiller Oxycontin. This drug also had the highest cost per user.

• The biggest spike in costs was associated with dermatological medication, which rose 7.4% in 2011.

According to Express Scripts' official press release,

"Behaviors such as habit or lack of awareness can lead some physicians to continue to choose branded medications over more clinically equivalent, lower-cost generic alternatives. Injured workers may also request the more expensive medication. These behaviors drive up the cost of the workers' compensation pharmacy benefit."

The report also indicates that about 125 million U.S. employees are currently eligible for workers' compensation coverage. Approximately 4.2 million of these employees suffer work-related injuries and illnesses every year.

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Kansas City Based Bartlett Grain Facing Multiple Citations for Workplace Safety Violations

119977_new_generation_elevator.jpgOn Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced that Bartlett Grain Company, based in Kansas City, Missouri, is now charged with several workplace violations, which led to unsafe working conditions in a grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas. Those conditions, said Solis, left 6 workers dead and 2 seriously injured. Bartlett Grain is facing 5 willful violations and 8 serious safety violations connected to an explosion in the Atchison grain elevator in October 2011: the company could be fined as much as $406,000.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charges companies with willful violations when those violations are committed with "intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health," according to the Administration's official news release regarding Bartlett Grain.

Bartlett's willful violations include the following charges:

• Allowing grain dust to build up over time (this dust is 9 times as explosive as coal dust).

• Using compressed air to remove grain dust (and failing to shut down potential ignition sources prior to that removal).

• Starting and stopping bucket elevators repeatedly, in an attempt to clear grain clogs.

• Using electrical equipment that was inappropriate for the elevator's workplace conditions.

• Failing to require employees who worked from heights to use fall protection.

Among the 8 serious safety violations are charges of improper preventative maintenance, certification, and lubrication connected to upkeep of grain handling equipment. The company is also charged with failing to provide appropriate training programs with respect to job hazards and emergency procedures, along with a "deficient" housekeeping program that did not prevent grain accumulations, according to WorkersCompensation.com. In addition, OSHA has cited Kansas Grain Inspection Services, based in Topeka, with 3 violations: one willful, one serious, and one other-than serious.

View the citations to Bartlett Grain Company and Kansas Grain Inspection Services.

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Workers' Comp Legislature Passed By MO House, Then Vetoed by Gov. Nixon: Provisions of SB 572 Still Up for Debate

68915_law_education_series_1.jpgWorkers' compensation law - in particular, Senate Bill 572 - has been the subject of much debate in the Missouri legislature throughout the last month. In early March, the bill passed in the Missouri House with a vote of 87-68, after passing more overwhelmingly in the Senate (26-8). The bill has been the subject of some controversy: under its terms, occupational diseases would be entirely covered by workers' compensation: since 2005, employees have been able to pursue such claims through civil courts. Occupational diseases are chronic ailments that are caused by workplace conditions, including conditions like mesothelioma and carpal tunnel syndrome.

In addition, SB 572 would have created a cap of $300,000 on the amount of punitive damages that an employee could collect for illegal discrimination. It would've also prevented employers from terminating employees who report illegal workplace activities to law enforcement authorities ("whistle blowers"), and ban lawsuits against coworkers for workplace injuries.

Then, in mid-March, Governor Nixon vetoed the bill, citing "fundamental flaws" in its language. "[The bill] is nearly identical to the bill I vetoed last year because it would undermine the Missouri Human Rights Act and decades of progress on civil rights," Nixon said. The Insurance Journal reports that "in a veto message to the Legislature, Nixon raised several specific objections [to SB 572], including to the restrictions on punitive damages against governmental bodies and to a portion that he said would have blocked from liability the individual at a business who commits the discriminatory act."

In response, on March 29, the Senate voted to override Gov. Nixon's veto. According to the Associated Press, Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey (who also sponsored the measure) said "the override vote was necessary because Nixon had not offered lawmakers any suggestions for how to make the measure better."

The president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, Phil Hess, expressed frustration with the Senate's override, because SB 572 would also place limits on the amount victims can recover by sending those who suffer from occupational diseases back to the workers' compensation system. "Current law allows these victims to access real justice in civil court. Forcing these families into workers' comp is not justice," Hess said in an email to the AP.

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Texting While Driving: Now Causing Missouri Work Accidents

1016505_road_traffic_accident.jpgDistracted drivers are literally everywhere - and they're becoming a major cause of work-related injuries. In 2011, OSHA held a Symposium on Prevention of Occupationally-Related Distracted Driving, where attendees discussed the consequences of using cell phones and testing while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels discussed just how often traffic accidents occur as a result of this careless activity.

There were a number of stakeholders that all had one goal in mind: reducing the number of work-related driving distractions. They spoke with one another in an attempt to create a plan of action, including new directions for research. Our Missouri workers' compensation attorneys understand the importance of these meetings. As technology and workplace environments continue to advance, so shall the rules and regulations to keep these places safe and injury free.

There were a number of organizations that contributed to the symposium, including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Johns Hopkins Education and Research Center for Occupational Safety and Health, the Department of Transportation and the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. These organizations participated in a number of presentations, networking opportunities, training material demonstrations and discussions.

The number of workplace fatalities caused by distracted driving continues to climb. Car accidents are the number 1 cause of on-the-job fatalities.

As a large number of workers are required to drive while on the job, each of them face an increased risk of death at work. Many local employees are urged to visit various work sites, meet with clients and customers, and deliver goods. The Departments of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have teamed up in a countrywide campaign designed to halt distracted driving habits and save lives.

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Missouri Work Accidents Often Impact Lungs, Hearing

281294_hearing_protection.jpgIn 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed two guidance documents (one for employers and one for employees) that describe the use of spirometry testing. OSHA recommends that workplaces utilize these tests to help reduce and prevent exposure to respiratory hazards, which can cause serious work injuries in Missouri and throughout the country.

Spirometry is a common pulmonary function test that is used to measure the efficiency of air flow in a person's lungs. The inhalation of contaminants (such as dusts and gases) can - over time - cause some serious lung damage or even lung cancer. These documents present a number of ways that employers can identify and eliminate these types of work hazards. Elimination of these contaminants can help to prevent lung disease in workers.

If you work in a contaminant-high environment, our Missouri workers' compensation attorneys urge you to take this test as soon as possible: spirometry can detect changes in breathing, alerting you to lung dysfunction at an early stage. Employers are required by law to ensure the safety of their employees to the best of their ability. If an employer fails to protect a worker from a known hazard, they are responsible.

"Spirometry is the best available test for early detection of decreasing or abnormal lung function," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "Our joint effort with NIOSH in developing these products will help broaden outreach and enhance knowledge of preventive measures aimed at protecting worker health and safety."

Monitoring workers' lung function can help identify problems sooner rather than later, so that changes can be made in the workplace when needed. The test can help to make your job safer by identifying when workplace hazards may be causing respiratory problems.

"We are pleased to join with OSHA in emphasizing the important role of spirometry in preventing costly, debilitating, and potentially fatal occupational lung diseases," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "These tests are a vital component of health and safety programs in workplaces where workers may be exposed to hazardous airborne contaminants."

OSHA recommends that employers test for diacetyl and diacetyl substitutes through this spirometry test as well.

OSHA is making some other changes. In 2011, they decided to withdraw a proposed interpretation titled "Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise." This was the interpretation that would have clarified the phrase "feasible administrative or engineering controls." The proposed interpretation they're withdrawing was initially published in the Federal Register back in October of 2010.

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Best Practices for Injured Missouri Workers: Part 4 of 4

February 24, 2012

file5601297827370.jpgIn the last installment of our 4 part series, "Best Practices for Injured Workers," our Missouri workers' compensation attorneys discuss the different ways that workers' comp claims can be resolved.

Claims for compensation are filed when an injured worker does not ultimately receive all benefits that he or she is entitled to. The workers' comp system gives injured employees the legal right to seek compensation for workplace injuries, but they are not permitted to sue their employers for negligence in civil court: injured workers must seek compensation through the workers' comp system. Workers' comp provides benefits for permanent disability, medical expenses and lost wages, but not for pain and suffering.

Every claim is different. Every case is impacted by numerous factors in varying degrees, including the nature and extent of the injury; the circumstances that caused the injury; and the conditions and environment in which the injury occurred. All of these elements can affect the path a claim takes toward resolution, and the resolution itself. Remember that you're legally entitled to consult a workers' compensation attorney at any point in the process. Missouri workers' compensation law can be complicated: an experienced lawyer can help you navigate your claim through the Missouri workers' comp system, and make sure you understand all the options available.

What happens after a claim is filed?
Again, it depends on the claim. Speaking in general, here are a few possible avenues:

A claimant can ask for a pre-hearing for the following reasons:
• to request approval for a settlement agreement;
• to address any issues that must be resolved so the claim can move forward; or
• to expedite the resolution of the claim, when parties have a "good faith belief" that a pre-hearing will help move the claim towards settlement or final hearing more quickly.

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Best Practices for Injured Missouri Workers: Part 3 of 4

February 17, 2012

Meldodi2_hospbed_100_2857.jpgIn Part 3 of our 4 part series, "Best Practices for Injured Workers," our Missouri workers' compensation attorneys provide information about the different kinds of benefits available to workers' compensation claimants.

If you are unable to return to your job as the result of workplace injuries, you are most likely entitled to disability benefits. There are several factors that affect what kind of benefits you are eligible for:

Temporary Total Disability

• If you have to take time away from work to recover from your injuries and/or any medical procedures associated with those injuries; or your doctor says you cannot return to work because of your injuries, you may be eligible for Temporary Total Disability benefits to compensate you for your lost wages.

• If your employer has offered you "light or modified [duties]," and your doctor says that you are capable of performing those tasks, you may not be able to collect Temporary Total Disability benefits.

• However, if you accept "light or modified" duties, but at less than full pay, the law allows you to collect Temporary Partial Disability benefits.

• Temporary Total Disability benefits should continue until your doctor releases you to return to work, either because your "treatment is concluded" or because you have "maximum medical improvement," whichever comes first.

Permanent Partial Disability and Permanent Total Disability

• Permanent Partial Disability benefits are designed to assist injured workers whose injury impacts the tasks they can perform, but who can still work (even if the job isn't exactly the same one that they had before the injury).

• Permanent Total Disability benefits are awarded to employees who are no longer able to work, in any capacity, at any job. Depending on the circumstances - in particular, the nature and extent of the injury - these benefits may be paid out in lifetime weekly installments, or as a lump sum payment.

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