As 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.
What Missouri employees need to know about workers’ comp cases:
It’s common for workers’ comp cases to be resolved via a settlement agreement between the parties involved. However, approximately 5% of workers comp cases do end up going to trial (referred to as a “hearing” or an “evidentiary hearing”). These hearings happen in front of an administrative law judge, and like any trial, it is a formal legal proceeding. Rules of evidence apply, and it is the employee who has the burden of proof with regard to any issues that are contested in the case.
Incidentally, this factor demonstrates how important it can be to seek advice from a workers’ comp lawyer, who can help you navigate through this process. For example, if an employee fails to present appropriate evidence to address a contested issue, the employee can lose – on that particular issue. Even worse, there are certain issues which could cause the employee to lose the entire case, if the burden of proof is not properly met. Proper pre-trial preparation of the employee’s evidence by someone who knows what they are doing is absolutely crucial.
What happens at a Missouri workers’ compensation trial:
The injured party, the employer, their insurance carrier and all of their respective attorneys must appear before the administrative law judge. The first question the judge will ask is whether there are any issues that all parties agree on. These agreements are called “stipulations” and will be read into the permanent court record. Next, the judge will ask about contested issues. It is those issues the judge will address when he/she gives the award.
At this point, it is the employee’s turn to present evidence and give testimony. The employee must present medical evidence, a physician’s deposition, and any other pertinent information. Other witnesses may be called as well, just like in a regular trial. Both the employee and any witnesses may be subject to cross-examination.
Next, the employer/insurer will present their version of events and their evidence. Most times that will include medical evidence such as certified medical records and/or their physician’s testimony.
At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will decide the award, after reviewing the evidence. This award will consist of his findings, rulings of law, and the amount given. However, all “final” awards are subject to appeal by either the employee, or the employer/insurer. If this happens, another hearing would have to be scheduled.
Where to find more answers and help:
Every case is different, and can be impacted by its own set of unique factors. Again, that’s why it can be extremely beneficial to seek advice from an experienced workers’ comp lawyer. Here at Northland Injury Law, we’ve been working with injured Missourians statewide for years. For a free consultation contact Northland Injury Law at 816-400-4878.