If you have been injured on the job, you should file a workers’ compensation claim right away. As Missouri workers’ compensation laws become increasingly complicated, it is often a good idea to hire a Springfield, Missouri, workers’ compensation attorney to assist you with your claim.
On-the-job injuries are unfortunately frequent. People spend many active hours each day on the job, and particularly in jobs involving physical labor there is always a strong possibility of on-the-job injury. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 in America there were 3,277,700 recordable cases of on-the-job injuries, with 965,000 cases involving missed days of work. In Missouri alone in the three months between April and June 2010, there were 28,287 reported workplace injuries and 3,521 workers’ compensation claims filed by injured workers.
How Workers’ Compensation Works
Because of the frequency of work-related injuries, Missouri, like all other states, has created a workers’ compensation system, also known as workers’ comp or workman's comp. This system involves a trade-off. By law, workers are entitled to compensation for work-related injuries regardless of fault – even if the injury is the worker’s own fault. However, an injured worker cannot sue his or her employer for any negligence by the employer or coworkers that caused the injury. Instead, the injured worker must pursue monetary recovery through the workers’ compensation system, which generally provides less money than a negligence claim through the civil court system. Under the workers’ compensation system, injured workers can recover for medical expenses, lost wages, and permanent disability, but cannot recover for pain and suffering.
Workers’ compensation claims are administered by the Missouri Department of Labor, through its Division of Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ compensation is meant to be largely self-executing, meaning that the worker, his or her employer, and the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier should be able to handle the payment of workers’ compensation benefits for the injury. Sometimes this is true, especially with minor injuries. However, Missouri workers’ compensation law has gotten very complex due to numerous pieces of legislation over the years, and often it is a good idea to consult with an attorney in order to understand your rights and options under the law.
The Role of a Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you are injured on the job, you should report your injury to your employer right away. Your employer, in turn, is required to report the injury to the Division of Workers’ Compensation. However, you should also file a claim yourself directly with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer often do not have your best interests in mind, and will seek to minimize your injuries, your treatment, and the overall cost of your claim. This is another reason to hire a workers’ compensation attorney: to help present your claim comprehensively and ensure you receive maximum compensation for your injury. An experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer will also advise you of the future impact of your injury, as disability ratings and assessments of current injuries can impact your right to compensation now and in the future.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help in many other ways. Workers’ compensation can often impact and overlap with Social Security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment benefits. Multiple injuries over time can create a right to additional compensation from the state’s Second Injury Fund, and chronic injuries caused by repetitive tasks over time can create difficult issues of proof. Some unscrupulous employers do not maintain required workers’ compensation insurance, which can also create a right to compensation from the Second Injury Fund. Sometimes an employer will contest the extent of the injury, or whether the injury truly occurred in the course and scope of employment, which can lead to court hearings, discovery, and even trial. In some instances, while a worker may be injured on the job, a third party may have caused the injury, such as a negligent driver or employee of a subcontractor. In these cases, the injured worker may have a civil personal injury claim as well as a workers’ compensation claim.
It is easy for your workers’ compensation claim to get very complicated very quickly. It is important to have a Springfield, Missouri workers’ compensation attorney to defend your rights. At Aaron Sachs & Associates, P.C., we have attorneys who limit their practice to workers’ compensation and injury claims, armed with experience and knowledge of this complex system. We maintain a blog focused on workers’ compensation issues, in order to keep the public and the legal community informed of developments in this area of the law. By law, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you pay us nothing up front. We maintain offices throughout Missouri, including Springfield, Columbia/Jefferson City and Kansas City. Clients are responsible for costs or expenses.
If you have been injured on the job and have questions about your right to compensation, contact our offices today.