Recently in Pre-existing conditions Category

Employee Classification, Location Among Factors Affecting Missouri Workers' Compensation Awards

January 20, 2012

In this post, the Missouri workers' compensation attorneys would like to discuss a recent decision of the Missouri Court of Appeals. In Rader vs. Werner Enterprises, No. ED95905, ---S.W.3d --- (Mo.App.E.D. 2012), an injured over the road truck driver sought permanent total disability benefits, along with compensation for future medical care, and ultimately prevailed.

952313_gavel.jpgTimothy Rader had worked as a truck driver for 6-8 years for the same company, Werner Enterprises. In May of 2003, he sustained a head injury as he unloaded a truck at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis: a partially empty keg rolled out of the truck and struck him.

Rader was taken to the ER, where he reported pain and numbness in various parts of his body, and he couldn't remember if he had lost consciousness. Over the next several months, Rader continued to experience severe pain (particularly in his back and knees), along with various other symptoms. He received extensive medical treatment and was unable to work.

The Claim:
Rader filed a workers' compensation claim in May of 2005. After a hearing, where an Administrative Law Judge heard testimony from Rader and several experts, Rader was awarded permanent total disability benefits and future medical care expenses. Werner then filed for a review with the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, but the Commission upheld the award. Ultimately, Werner appealed to the Eastern District Court of Appeals.

The Appeal:
Werner disputed the Commission's ruling, appealing six points:

1. Under the terms of Rader's revised employee agreement, Werner argued, Rader was only allowed to seek workers' comp benefits in Nebraska, where Werner's corporate office is located, and where an alleged employment agreement provides for jurisdiction. Their stance was that the Missouri court did not have jurisdiction over the claim, even though the accident happened in St. Louis.

2.Werner also claimed that Rader was not eligible for workers' compensation benefits because he was an owner-operator and not an employee. In February 2003, Rader had entered into a new employment agreement with Werner, which changed his job title to "independent contractor": he purchased a truck from Werner, began paying his own expenses, and received a larger pay rate.

3. Before he worked for Werner, Rader had suffered previous injuries to his knees and back. Werner contended that the May 2003 accident was not the cause of Rader's present disability, and that Rader instead had a preexisting degenerative condition.

4. Werner disputed the award for future medical care, maintaining that Rader's May 2003 injury did not necessitate future treatment.

5. The company contended that Rader was in fact capable of returning to work, and disputed the award for permanent total disability.

6. Finally, Werner contested the amount of the award, based on Rader's average weekly wages.

Continue reading "Employee Classification, Location Among Factors Affecting Missouri Workers' Compensation Awards" »

Obesity a "Big" Issue in Springfield Missouri Workers' Compensation Claims

December 9, 2011

What is the relationship between a pre-existing condition such as obesity and an injured workers' right to obtain full compensation for his work-related injury? This is a question that has started to come up more frequently for Springfield, MO Workers Compensation lawyers. The reason: obesity has reached epidemic proportions here in Springfield MO and throughout the rest of the nation. Being obese can seriously complicate or hinder the medical treatment a worker needs to recover after an injury. It can also cause an employer to claim that the obesity was the cause of the injury, and try to dispute a rightful claim.

522843-tummy-last-hope-after-lunch.jpgTwo recent reports outline the issues. The first, done in 2010 by Duke University, found a significant link between obesity and the cost of workers compensation. Obese employees were found to file double the number of workers' compensation claims as average weight employees. They also reported a whopping seven times higher medical costs from those claims, as well as 13 times more missed days of work.

There are various problems for injured, obese workers. They are more likely to have pre-existing health conditions that exacerbate their injuries, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Any of these can significantly impact the treatment of a workers compensation claim, causing costs to skyrocket. If an injured worker suffers from any of these diseases, his recovery from a work injury or illness will likely be much slower and more complicated.

A recent Gallup poll sheds even more light on this situation, with the startling statistic that overweight or obese workers miss 450 million more work days annually than their normal-weight, healthy counterparts.

Releasing the results of their poll, Gallup commented, "The high percentages of full-time U.S. workers who have less-than-ideal health are a significant drain on productivity for U.S. businesses. However, employees and employers have the opportunity to potentially increase productivity if they address the health issues that are currently plaguing the workplace."

Continue reading "Obesity a "Big" Issue in Springfield Missouri Workers' Compensation Claims" »