What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a process in which workers may receive compensation for work-related injuries without directly suing their employers. It is required by law for employers that have five or more employees to provide workers’ compensation coverage (with a few exceptions). The idea behind workers’ compensation is that workers will be guaranteed compensation for injuries that they sustained at work, while employers will be able to avoid the uncertain expenses associated with personal injury lawsuits. However, in most cases workers’ compensation does eliminate the right of employees to sue their employers for personal injuries that occur while on the job, and there are penalties for employers that do not provide workers’ compensation coverage.
What Should I do if I’m Injured at Work in Missouri?
- Report your injury to your employer. This is a crucial step, as it will officially start the process of filing for workers’ compensation benefits. If the situation is an emergency, however, then you should seek medical attention as soon as possible before anything else. Tell the doctors, nurses, and emergency medical technicians that are treating you that you sustained your injury while on the job if possible. Afterwards, tell your employer what happened as soon as possible. Remember: you will only have 30 days after your injury to give your employer notice of your injury before you run the risk of losing your right to workers’ compensation benefits. Your notice should be in writing and have the date, a brief description of what happened, your name and your mailing address. Keep a copy of your notice.
- After your employer has been given notice of your injury, he will have five days to bring this notice to his insurance provider for examination and consideration. Your step after you notify your boss is to ask him which doctor you should see for your injury. In the state of Missouri, your employer (not his insurance company or you) has the right to choose which doctor you see for your work-related injury. This doctor will give you initial treatment for your injury and will also confirm that your injury is work-related for your employer. If your injury is approved for workers’ compensation benefits by your doctor and your employer’s insurer, you should expect to receive benefits in about a week or so.
What Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Available in Missouri?
Missouri’s Revised Statutes, Chapter 287, entitles workers to many benefits under “Workers’ Compensation Law”. This includes medical benefits, in which any relevant medical treatment prescribed by your doctor will be covered. You may additionally receive vocational rehabilitation benefits to help you find work after your injury, and you may also be reimbursed for traveling expenses such as trips to and from the hospital. Additional benefits provided through workers’ compensation are income benefits, which are:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits in Missouri
Workers who are still in the process of healing from their injuries, but cannot return to work because of their injuries, may qualify for Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits. TTD is likely to be the first income benefit you will receive after your injury. TTD payments are equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage from before your injury. Your average weekly wage is calculated by taking the average wage of the 13 weeks prior to your injury. You may receive TTD benefits until you can return to work at your full wage, or until your injury reaches Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) Benefits in Missouri
Workers that are still healing from their injuries, but can return to work at a reduced wage, may qualify for Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits. TPD will compensate you for two-thirds of the difference in your wages. To calculate this, subtract the wage that you make after your injury from the wage you made from before your injury. Your rate of compensation will be two-thirds of the remainder. These benefits, like the TTD benefits, will compensate you until you restore your previous wages, or until your injury has reached MMI.
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits in Missouri
In some cases, injuries never completely heal. If your doctor determines that you can never return to work because of your permanent disability, you may qualify for Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits. PTD benefits are equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage from before your injury (basically the same as TTD benefits). However, these benefits could compensate you for the rest of your life.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits in Missouri
If you suffer from any form of permanent disability because of your work-related injury, you may qualify for Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits. There are a few steps in calculating how much you can be compensated for PPD benefits.
- For the first step, you doctor will determine the percentage of impairment of a specific part of your body that was injured.
- This percentage (in decimal format) will then be multiplied by the amount of compensable weeks scheduled to that specific injury.
- The remaining number will then be multiplied by two-thirds of your previous average weekly wage and paid to you in a lump-sum amount.
PPD benefits are almost always one-time payments of your total PPD compensation. It is also important to note that all income benefits are subject to minimum and maximum restrictions in place by Missouri’s state average weekly wage. In which any benefit cannot exceed two-thirds of the state’s maximum average weekly wage. You may also want to request a second medical opinion of your impairment percentage, if you believe that it is too low.
What Should I do if My Missouri Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Denied?
It is very important to defend your rights to compensation if your claim is denied.
You will have to attend a mediation hearing with Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation Division’s Dispute Management Unit. You should retain a workers’ compensation attorney before this hearing in order to make sure you receive a fair rate of compensation. If your case is not resolved during this hearing, you may need to attend several more hearings before a final verdict is given for your case.
It is your right to retain a workers’ compensation attorney at any point in the claims process. It would be wise to retain an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation attorney early on in the process, this will allow you to be informed on any questions that you have, and will make sure that you adequate legal representation if a problem occurs at any point in the claims process. If your case does reach a hearing, it is very likely that your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier will have attorney representation, thus it is a better idea to be prepared.