When you sustain a personal injury at work, questions arise quickly, like “how does Missouri law protect you?” “Who can be held accountable?” “What are your rights?” Employment lawyers in Jackson County, Missouri can help you with the path forward.
What Constitutes a Work Injury?
A work injury is any harm an employee suffers while performing their job duties or as a direct result of their employment. Such injuries might occur in an office, on a construction site, during transportation related to work, or any other workplace environment. The nature of these injuries can range from minor cuts or bruises to severe injuries, such as fractures, burns, or even life-altering conditions.
While many believe that only physical harm is considered a workplace injury, Missouri recognizes that emotional and psychological damage can also result from work injuries and should be considered in compensation. Missouri workers’ compensation also allows you to get workers’ compensation benefits if your mental health has suffered in the course of your employment.
Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation: The First Recourse
Workers’ compensation laws ensure that injured workers receive necessary medical treatment, lost wages, and compensation for any lasting disabilities. Employers in Missouri with more than five employees are typically required to have workers’ compensation insurance. In the construction industry, this requirement applies even if there’s only one employee.
When an injury occurs, employees must report it to their employer within 30 days. After the report, the employer should provide the necessary medical care, either by directing the employee to a designated medical provider or allowing the employee to choose one.
It’s worth noting that accepting workers’ compensation benefits usually means waiving the right to sue the employer for the injury. However, there are exceptions, especially in cases of extreme negligence or intentional harm by the employer.
Employer Negligence and Third-Party Liability
In many workplace injury situations, it’s simple to see how an injury resulted from the work situation. However, sometimes you need to distinguish between an employer’s negligence and the possibility of third-party liability. This can sometimes be trickier than it might seem at first. Your employment lawyers can help you here.
For instance, if you are injured due to malfunctioning equipment, the fault might lie with the manufacturer of the equipment (a third party) rather than your employer. Similarly, if you’re driving for work purposes and get into a car accident because another driver was reckless, that driver could be held responsible for your injuries even if you were in a work vehicle doing something for your employer at the time.
Understanding where the fault lies is crucial because it can determine the legal avenues available for seeking compensation. While workers’ compensation claims are directed at employers, personal injury claims can be filed against third parties responsible for the injury.
Seeking Compensation Beyond Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is a great start, but it might not cover all the damages an injured worker suffers, and it especially might not cover all non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. If another party’s negligence caused the injury, or if the employer’s actions were intentional or egregiously negligent, you might have grounds to file an injury lawsuit.
Such lawsuits are separate from workers’ compensation claims and can provide compensation for medical bills, future medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, among other damages. The standards for proving negligence in these cases are different from those in workers’ compensation claims, so make sure you work with Jackson County, Missouri lawyers who have experience in all types of work injuries and their claims.
Filing an Injury Lawsuit in Missouri
Once you’ve determined that a personal injury lawsuit is the right course of action, you and your lawyer will take the case through several important steps.
Initiating a Complaint
To begin the lawsuit, a formal document called a complaint is filed in a Missouri court. This document outlines your allegations against the defendant (the party you believe is responsible for your injury) and states what relief you’re seeking. Once filed, the defendant is served with a copy, informing them of the legal action.
After the lawsuit has been initiated, both parties enter the discovery phase. This is a crucial period where both sides gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build their respective cases. Tools like depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents are commonly used during this phase. As the injured party, you might be asked to provide details of the injury, medical records, or even undergo a medical examination.
Negotiation and Potential Settlement
Many personal injury cases in Missouri never reach trial. Instead, they’re resolved through negotiations. Your lawyer will negotiate with the defendant’s legal representation to reach a settlement that fairly compensates you for your injuries. You really need strong legal representation during these negotiations to ensure your interests are protected, but settling is often the fastest way to get the best outcome.
If negotiations don’t result in a satisfactory settlement, the case proceeds to trial. Here, both sides present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury. After hearing the case, the judge or jury will render a verdict, determining liability and the amount of compensation, if any, to be awarded.
Steps to Take After an Injury
Report Your Injury Promptly
In Missouri, you should report any workplace injury within 30 days of its occurrence. This applies whether:
- Your company is based in Missouri and the injury happens inside or outside the state
- You work for an out-of-state company but sustained injuries while working within Missouri
- You entered into an employment contract within Missouri, even if you’re subsequently sent to work elsewhere
The 30-day timeline also applies to repetitive use injuries once you become aware that your job has caused them.
While verbal communication is a good first step, you should always also submit a written report to your employer detailing the injury. This documentation should specify the date of the injury, whom you reported it to, and any subsequent actions or responses. Always keep copies for yourself.
Seek All Necessary Medical Attention
Following a workplace injury, you’re entitled to receive medical care. The goal is to cure and relieve the effects of the injury, and even if an employer later challenges whether they are required to compensate you for your injury, they are still obligated to provide immediate medical examination or treatment. Don’t shy away from seeking the medical care you need.
If you’re unsatisfied with the medical care suggested by your employer, or if your case is denied, you have the option to seek treatment using your health insurance or consult your own doctor. Having your attorney liaise with medical providers if you need, and remember to hand-deliver letters to your supervisor confirming your injury report and any medical care needs. Keep duplicates.
Stand up For Your Rights While Off Work
If a doctor advises you against working due to your injury, you’re entitled to receive temporary total disability (TTD). This is two-thirds of your average weekly wage and is tax-free. Be aware that insurance companies may push for a declaration of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI), which can result in the end of your TTD.
If you’re at work but given tasks that go beyond your doctor-prescribed limitations, don’t hesitate to refuse and provide your employer with a written record of your concerns. It’s crucial to prioritize your health and recovery.
Always Work With Experienced Employment Lawyers in Jackson County, Missouri
Workplace injuries can significantly impact your life, but in Missouri, there are ways to get the compensation they deserve. Navigating all the options and choosing the best route can be difficult, though, so reach out to us at Holman Schiavone, LLC right away if you’ve been injured at work. We have a lot of experience in employment law, and our goal is always to protect your rights.