What to do if you are injured at work
If you are injured at work, you may be entitled to have your medical bills paid, receive a portion of your lost wages, and/or receive payments due to any disability that qualifies as a temporary disability, permanent partial disability, or permanent total disability. Understanding how to file your claim and what benefits you may be entitled to can be overwhelming and confusing with all of the legal and medical terminology, but Chris can help.
If you have been hurt at work, you must take steps immediately to preserve your rights:
Report your injury in writing to a supervisor within 30 days. Failure to file a report within 30 days may jeopardize your ability to obtain benefits. Sometimes an employer has a form that you can use to report your injury. If they do not have a form, you can use this form provided by the Missouri Department of Labor to provide to your employer.
If you need medical treatment, you should indicate your need for treatment to your employer immediately. Under Missouri law, your employer has the right to select your treating physician.
Talk to a worker's compensation attorney about what benefits you are entitled to. It is also important to keep records of anything you provide to and/or receive from your employer.
Sometimes your employer may not have workers' compensation insurance coverage. If your employer has told you this, you can verify their coverage, or lack thereof, at the Missouri Department of Labor's website. Also, if your employer does not carry workers' compensation insurance, you may also want to talk with an employment lawyer about employment misclassification issues.
Available Benefits for Workplace Injuries
If you are injured at work, there are three basic types of benefits that are available to you. The fact that you are receiving one type of benefit does not preclude you from receiving the other two on the same injury. If you're injured at work and the injury occurred within the scope of your employment, the benefits available to you are as follows:
Your employer, or your employer's insurer, is required to provide you with medical care. However, Missouri law provides that the employer has the right to select your treating physician. If you do not like the physician your employer has provided, you may elect to find your own physician at your own expense.
For work related injuries, you are entitled to medical treatment, with no deductibles or co-pays, until your injury or condition is alleviated. If you feel like your employer's designated physician is not treating you properly you can demand additional treatment.
Temporary Disability are meant to provide income if you are unable to work because of you work related injury or condition. If you are unable to work for three or more days due to your injury or condition, you could be entitled to Temporary Disability Benefits. These benefits are paid weekly and are calculated by paying out two-thirds (2/3) of your Average Weekly Wage ("AWW"). The AWW is always subject to a maximum amount set by law and the Missouri Department of Labor.
Permanent Disability benefits are meant to compensate an employee for any permanent injury or condition that they may have due to a work related injury. The Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation provides a chart that divides the body up into what the law calls "levels." Every body part, or level, has a specific value that was assigned to it by the Missouri General Assembly. Additionally, the chart (also seen below) provides indicates the maximum "compensation rate" allowable under law for the time period of the injury.
When calculating permanent disability benefits, workers' compensation lawyers and Administrative Law Judges evaluating the merits of a Claim for Compensation, usually look for a medical expert to set a percentage of disability. It is common for medical experts to disagree about the proper percentage of the disability. Once you have all three factors you can multiply them all together and come up with an amount that should be awarded in Permanent Disability Benefits (do note all contested outcomes are dependent on the decision of Administrative Law Judges and vary depending on the facts of your case). The equation would look like this:
(Level) x (Compensation Rate, or AWW) x (Percentage Disability) = Permanent Disability Award
As an example, consider an employee who injured their back on the job (a 400 level). The employee had a good job making $1100/week in September of 2017, when they were injured. A medical professional evaluated the employee's injury and determined that her percentage of a permanent partial disability is 35%. The calculation of benefits would be as follows:
(400 Level) x ($483.48; maximum AWW) x (35%) = $67,687.20 Permanent Partial Disability Award
Filing A Claim for Compensation
If you are injured at work, chances are that you will want to file a workers' compensation Claim for Compensation. In order to get permanent disability benefits, and sometimes even medical and temporary benefits, you will need to file a Claim for Compensation.
You can find the Claim for Compensation form at the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation website. Before filing a Claim for Compensation, make sure you have taken all of the necessary steps to preserve your rights to the claim. Our guide on how to preserve those rights can be found here.
Typically you will need a lot of information that is on the Report of Injury that was filed with the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation. Here is some basic information you will need when filing your claim:
Your Injury Number (located on a Report of Injury as the "Jurisdictional Claim Number")
Date of Injury
Your Average Weekly Wage (this is used to help determine the amount of permanent disability benefits)
Your Employer's name, and mailing address
Statements about the parts of your body that were injured and how they were injured
Once you have filled out the form, you will need to send the original and three (3) copies to the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation. They will then send the Claim to your Employer and their insurer (if they have one) so that they may admit or deny the claim.
Can my Employer fire Me?
Missouri law provides safeguards and protections to prevent employers from firing an employee merely because they have filed a workers' compensation claim. Under Section 287.780, RSMo, "[n]o employer or agent shall discharge or discriminate against any employee for exercising any of his or her rights under this chapter when the exercising of such rights is the motivating factor in the discharge or discrimination."
Protection under this law is not limited to the actual filing of a claim for compensation. Engaging in activities such as filing a report of injury and receiving medical treatment would also trigger protections under this law making it illegal to discharge an employee for doing so.