An Overview of Missouri Workers Compensation Law
If you are injured on the job, you have rights. You must put your own health and financial concern over that of your employer. The most common concern I see from clients is whether they will face retaliation for placing a claim through worker’s compensation. The sad reality is that in some work cultures, employees are ridiculed for exercising their basic rights. An employer cannot fire you for making a claim. If they do, they can face a wrongful termination lawsuit that could cost them more than your injury claim!
The most important first step to take if injured on the job is to notify your employer. Missouri law limits the amount of time you have to notify your employer to 30 days. If you fail to do so within the prescribed period, you may lose your ability to make a claim.
You must ask your employer for medical treatment! In Missouri your employer has the right to direct your medical care. You cannot treat somewhere on your own and expect that your employer will cover the expense. While they might cover the expense, there is a greater chance that they will not. In Illinois you can choose your own treatment so long as it is reasonably medically necessary.
Your employer will provide you with treatment at the initial stages. At this time, you are entitled to receive compensation for all time you are temporarily disabled. This is called TTD benefits. Your employer must pay 2/3 of your average weekly wage for all time that you miss work while you are considered “totally disabled.” This period can last a few weeks to a few months depending on several factors. The first is whether your employer can accommodate you with similar work that does not require you to meet any physical challenges. If this work available, they will switch you to this job and pay you accordingly. If your employer has no similar work available, you will be paid TTD until you are physically able to go back to your original job. The doctor that will put you back to work is usually a workers compensation doctor who is compensated by your employer’s insurance company.
State law limits your disability benefits and the insurance company does not have to cover all your losses. Injured workers compensation claimants cannot receive compensation for physical and emotional stress (i.e. pain and suffering) through workers’ compensation, a contrast to personal injury claims. TTD Benefits are calculated using the employee’s gross wages for the thirteen (13) weeks immediately proceeding the car accident.
What is a disability rating? Unlike personal injury law, worker’s compensation uses a formula that is created by the State of Missouri to determine the value of your claim. Permanent partial disabilities are calculated generally under RSMO 287.190. This formula has three separate factors that are used to calculate the value of your claim. Three factors are multiplied. The 1.) number of weeks of the body part injured x 2.) Average Weekly Wage x 3.) The disability percentage.
The first two factors are not debatable. The part of the body that you injured has been assigned a number of weeks of compensation. This number is pre-set by the state and can be found by a quick search online. The values range from as high as 400 weeks (which is a body as a whole injury) to as low as 22 weeks for the first digit or bone on your pinky finger. Your hand as a whole is worth 175 weeks, while the different fingers are each assigned their own value. If you are injured on more than one body part, sometimes that will enhance your calculation to a body as a whole while other times it is more appropriate to separate your two injuries into two different claims.
The second rate is your average weekly wage. This is codified in RSMO 287.170 for TTD and RSO 287.190 for PPD. No matter what your income is, your TTD benefits and your PPD benefits both have maximum values set by the state. The maximum benefit you are able to be paid for TTD is 2/3 of your average weekly wage up to the maximum amount for the time you were injured of 105% of the State Average Weekly Wage. Confusing as this may sound, essentially you look at the bodily injury chart and calculate if your average wage is higher or lower than the number for the period of time your injured occurred. You will receive less than the amount listed if you earn less than the State Average Weekly Wage, and cannot receive more. The TTD benefits are higher than PDD benefits. Your employer must pay you 55% of the State Average Weekly Wage for PPD.
It is important to note that no personal injury attorney should claim attorney’s fees on any TTD benefits you receive. You are entitled to these benefits as a matter of right. The only time it may be appropriate for an attorney to claim fees on TDD benefits is if a lump sum settlement is reached whereby disputed amounts of back TTD owed are resolved. In this event, a judge will have to approve of the attorney’s claim.