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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.

Continue reading "Survivor benefits & Missouri workers' compensation law: Who is eligible?" »

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.

Continue reading "Avoiding winter workplace hazards: Tips for Missouri employees" »

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.

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

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.

Continue reading "Dealing with a Missouri workers' comp claim? How a lawyer can help" »

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.

Continue reading "Managing medical treatment issues as a Missouri workers' compensation claimant" »

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.

Continue reading "Dealing with a workplace injury? 5 FAQs answered for Missouri workers" »

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.

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.

Continue reading "How do other kinds of benefits impact Missouri workers' compensation claims?" »

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.

Continue reading "Dealing with a workplace injury: Tips and info for Missouri workers" »

Are American workplaces becoming safer for employees?

September 20, 2012

767585_safe_steps_3.jpgIn recent years, safety conditions have improved dramatically in American workplaces, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual report on workplace deaths reveals that 4,609 employees died in 2011 workplace accidents, which represents a 1.7% decline from 2010, when 4,690 workers died. What's more, there's a 22% decline between last year and 2001, when 5,915 employees were killed. Encouragingly, workplace deaths have consistently decreased every year since 1994, when 6,632 fatalities were reported.

So, what factors explain the improved conditions and the reduction in fatal injuries to workers? First, authorities cite a collaborative effort from businesses, employees and industry organizations to make safety a priority and address potential hazards. "[Increasingly] employers value their workers. Not only is that the right thing to do, but it's expensive to replace them," Brian O'Donel told CNN. O'Donel is an industrial safety expert for Robson Forensic, which provides expert witnesses for civil litigation cases.

In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has enacted new rules and regulation that establish clearer guidelines about safety standards and requirements, O'Donel said.

The annual report also indicated that workers in the fishing industry have what is considered America's most deadly job, with 40 fishermen killed on the job in 2011. However, the most common dangerous activity in the workplace is driving. Traffic accidents caused nearly 25% of all work-related deaths, and 759 employees in the trucking industry died in 2011 crashes. While it's true that many more truckers died than fishermen last year, the fishing industry's fatality rate is approximately 121 deaths per 100,000 employees, which is five times the fatality rate for truckers.

The private mining industry also reported a 10% reduction in on the job deaths, while coal mining deaths dropped dramatically, with 43 deaths reported in 2010 and 17 reported in 2011.

Workplace violence also appears to be on the decline. Businesses reported a 5% drop from 2010: last year, 788 employees were killed in violent on-the-job incidents, with 458 of those employees being murdered. Most workplace homicides were connected to "disputes between workers or assaults by husbands and domestic partners," CNN reports. However, about one-third were linked to attempted robberies.

Continue reading "Are American workplaces becoming safer for employees?" »

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.

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

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.

Continue reading "Missouri Work Accidents Often Impact Lungs, Hearing" »

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.

Continue reading "Best Practices for Injured Missouri Workers: Part 4 of 4" »

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.

Continue reading "Best Practices for Injured Missouri Workers: Part 3 of 4" »

Best Practices for Injured Missouri Workers: Part 2 of 4

February 10, 2012

In Part 2 of our 4 part series, "Best Practices for Injured Workers," our Missouri workers' compensation attorneys offer some guidelines related to medical care.

PIC108543992297.jpgReceiving appropriate medical treatment is crucial. Many workplace injuries cause are extremely debilitating, causing physical limitations and serious pain, and they require extensive and continuous treatment. If you are eligible for workers' comp, and you have reported the injury to your employer (see Part 1 of our series), then your benefits should cover your medical expenses. According to the Missouri Department of Labor, "The employer or insurer is required to provide the medical treatment and care to cure and relieve the employee from the effects of the injury. This includes all costs for authorized medical treatment, prescriptions, and medical devices."

Can I choose my own doctors?
No - not unless you plan to pay your own expenses out of pocket. Workers' comp law affords the employer (or the insurer, on the employer's behalf) the legal right to select any and all health care providers. Be sure that you check with your employer and/or the insurer regarding physicians who treat your injury. If you're not satisfied with the medical care that you're receiving, it might be in your best interests to consult the attorney.

What if I have to travel to receive treatment?
If you are required to see a doctor whose office is located outside the local/metropolitan area of your principal place of employment, your employer is required to pay the "necessary and reasonable expenses" associated with that travel. However, employers will not cover the cost of travel "over 250 miles each way from the place of treatment." If you are not a Missouri resident, your employer can choose a treatment facility within 100 miles of your residence, the location of your injury, or your place of hire.

Do I have to agree to medical examinations and evaluations at my employer's request?
The law does permit your employer (or insurer) to request that you "submit to reasonable medical examinations" while you are on disability. Your employer can request multiple exams if you require long-term treatment, or if you have more than one injury. Similarly, you can be compelled to "submit to appropriate vocational testing and a vocational assessment scheduled by an employer or its insurer." Typically, these assessments are only administered when an injured worker is claiming to be permanently and totally disabled.

Continue reading "Best Practices for Injured Missouri Workers: Part 2 of 4" »