Worker’s Compensation

If you are injured in a work accident, the Missouri's Workers' Compensation Law provides three primary benefits. First of all, the employer and its insurance company are obligated to pay your medical expenses. Secondly, you are entitled to receive 2/3rds of your average weekly wages, up to a set limit, while you are receiving treatment for your injury. This is called temporary total disability (TTD).

The third benefit you are entitled to is monetary compensation if your injury is permanent. This is called permanent partial disability (PPD) or permanent total disability (PTD). Permanent partial disability is usually paid as a lump sum after your medical treatment is finished. The PPD amount is calculated according to the part of the body injured and the severity of the injury. As an example, it you injured your shoulder permanently and lost 20% of its effective use, the calculation would be as follows: 20% x 232 weeks of disability x the PPD rate which is 2/3rds of your average weekly wage or the maximum amount set by the State of Missouri, whichever is lower. If 2/3rds of your average weekly wage is equal to or greater than this maximum amount, then the mathematical calculation would be as follows if your injury occurred between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009: (.2 x 232 weeks x $404.66 = $18,776.22)

You may also be entitled to compensation if you develop a condition due to repetitive use of a body part such as carpal tunnel syndrome affecting your hand and wrist. You might also be exposed to certain chemicals or fumes which affect your lungs, etc. This is called occupational exposure or disease. If you believe such a condition is related to your job, you need to report it to your supervisor or manager right away and ask them to provide medical treatment.

Permanent total disability is paid to an injured employee if he or she is no longer able to perform full-time work of any type. This is obviously reserved for severe injuries. If this occurs, the injured employee is entitled to a weekly benefit for the rest of their life.

The most important thing to do after a work injury is to report it to your manager or supervisor right away. In Missouri, the employer has the right to select the doctor or hospital. Therefore, you need to ask your manager or supervisor to select a doctor or hospital for you to go to. In an emergency situation, you can go to the closest hospital that provides the care you need. The employer is then supposed to let you know who to see for follow up care.

If you have a slight injury to a finger for example, you may be able to settle your workers' compensation claim without an attorney's assistance. However, if your injury is to a major body part like a foot, hand, wrist, knee, shoulder, etc., it would be wise to obtain the services of an attorney. There is often quite a bit of difference between what the workers' compensation insurance company will pay you if you do or don't have an attorney. Most attorneys charge a 25% contingent fee of any amount he or she obtains for you. "Contingent" means that you do not owe the attorney any fees unless he or she obtains money on your behalf. It is also important to retain the services of an attorney if the employer and its insurance company refuse to pay your weekly benefits (TTD) or medical expenses.

Another subject that needs explanation is the Second Injury Fund (SIF). The Second Injury Fund is an entity created by the State of Missouri which provides additional benefits for certain injured employees. Let's say that you injured your right wrist in a previous injury at home or at work. If you injure your left wrist at work, you now have damage to both wrists. If the combined disability of both wrists is worse than each wrist injury considered alone, the Second Injury Fund is responsible to pay a certain amount for this combination effect. Under current law, both the pre-existing injury or condition and the work injury have to be sufficiently serious before the Second Injury Fund would pay any benefit. If the combination of the pre-existing injuries or conditions and the work injury cause you to be permanently disabled, then the Second Injury Fund would owe you weekly benefits for the rest of your life.