Workers’ compensation, often referred to as “workers’ comp,” is a system designed to help employees who get injured on the job. But, like many legal matters, there are rules, exceptions, and nuances that both employers and employees should be aware of.
For instance, which employers need to carry this insurance in Missouri? And what happens if they don’t? Let’s unpack the intricacies of workers’ compensation in Missouri, starting with the key question of whether you can still file a lawsuit even if you’ve been injured at work.
Is It Ever Possible to Sue for Personal Injury if My Employer Has Workers’ Comp?
Certainly, many injured workers believe that workers’ compensation is the sole remedy available to them after a workplace injury. While the workers’ compensation system is in place to provide benefits to those injured on the job, it doesn’t always bar you from pursuing a personal injury claim.
There are certain circumstances where you might be able to sue outside of the workers’ compensation system. If an employer intentionally harms you, or if a third party, not your employer, causes your injury, you might have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
For instance, if you were injured due to a defective product or a toxic substance at your job site, you might be able to sue the manufacturer of that product. Another scenario is when your employer doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance as required by law. In such cases, the door may be open for a personal injury claim.
Workers’ Compensation: a No-Fault Benefit Insurance Process
Workers’ compensation is designed as a no-fault insurance process. What does this mean for you, the injured worker? Simply put, it doesn’t matter who was at fault for the injury – be it you, your employer, or a coworker – you’re still eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
This system ensures that injured workers receive timely medical treatment and compensation for lost wages without the lengthy legal battles that often accompany personal injury claims.
However, in exchange for these guaranteed benefits, workers usually forfeit the right to sue their employer in civil court for pain and suffering. But, as mentioned earlier, certain exceptions might allow you to pursue a personal injury lawsuit outside of the workers’ compensation system.
Workers’ Compensation Covers Medical Treatment and a Portion of Your Lost Wages
One of the primary objectives of the workers’ compensation system is to assist injured workers in getting back on their feet, both medically and financially. Medical treatment costs, including doctor visits, surgeries, physical therapy, and medication, are typically covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
But that’s not all. Injured workers also receive a portion of their lost wages, helping to mitigate the financial strain that comes with not being able to work due to an injury.
However, the compensation for lost wages won’t entirely match your regular paycheck. It’s usually a percentage of your average wage, which varies based on the extent of your injury and its lasting impacts.
While the workers’ compensation system is designed to be a comprehensive solution for injured workers, it doesn’t address non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. Typically, you cannot sue your employer for these damages if you’re eligible for workers’ compensation. However, exceptions exist.
If an employer’s intentional or egregious misconduct caused your injury, you might be able to sue for emotional distress or pain and suffering in Missouri. Another exception would be if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance as required. In these scenarios, a personal injury lawsuit might be viable, allowing you to claim for both economic and non-economic damages.
Sometimes Workers’ Comp Alone Isn’t Enough
While workers’ compensation benefits are essential, they sometimes don’t fully cover the financial toll a workplace injury can impose. Workers’ compensation might cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages, but it doesn’t factor in the long-term emotional trauma or diminished quality of life that serious injuries can inflict.
In certain situations, pursuing a personal injury claim in tandem with a workers’ comp claim can be beneficial, allowing injured workers to recover compensation more reflective of their total losses.
When Can a Third-Party Injury Claim Replace Workers’ Comp?
In situations where a third party, separate from your employer, is responsible for your injury, you might be able to file a personal injury claim against that party.
Examples include injuries from a defective product where the manufacturer could be held liable, or if you’re involved in a work-related accident caused by an external party’s negligence.
In these scenarios, you aren’t restricted by the workers’ compensation system and can pursue damages like pain and suffering.
Can I Sue Workers’ Comp for Pain and Suffering if My Employer Doesn’t Carry Workers’ Comp Insurance?
If your employer neglects to carry workers’ compensation insurance, you aren’t bound by the workers’ comp system. In these cases, you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.
This lawsuit can include claims for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages not typically available through workers’ compensation.
How Long Do I Have To Sue for Work-Related Injuries?
In Missouri, there’s a deadline for pursuing legal action for work-related injuries known as the statute of limitations.
If this period lapses without filing a claim, you might lose the opportunity to recover compensation. However, workers’ compensation claims have different timelines from those in place regarding legal action, so it’s crucial to be aware and act promptly: don’t confuse the two!
The two-year statute of limitations deadline for work-related injury lawsuits is strict, and exceptions are rare. Missing this window can severely compromise your ability to achieve financial recovery. If you believe you have a claim, it’s in your best interest to seek legal guidance sooner rather than later to protect your rights.
What To Do After an Accident at Work: Injured Worker Reporting Requirements and Timelines in Missouri
If you’re an injured worker in Missouri, it’s crucial to act promptly and report your work-related injuries to your employer. By law, you have 30 days to report your injury from the day the accident happened or the injury was discovered. Timely reporting is vital, as failure to do so may jeopardize your ability to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
In addition to informing your employer, seeking immediate medical care is of the essence. Ensure the medical provider is aware that the injuries are work-related, as this information will be crucial when filing your workers’ comp claim.
Worker’s Compensation Insurance Rules and Questions
If a company has five or more employees, they usually need to have this insurance. But construction contractors must have workers comp even if they only have one employee. There are other rules to know about, as well:
Who Counts as an Employee?
In Missouri, it doesn’t matter if someone is full-time, part-time, or just works occasionally; they’re all considered employees. This includes seasonal workers and temporary hires.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Yes, a few types of workers don’t need to be covered by their employers:
- Farm workers
- People who do housework
- Some real estate agents and direct sellers
- Some owner-operators of commercial vehicles
What if You’re the Owner of a Small Business and Have Been Injured?
If you own the business or are a partner, you’re not automatically covered by worker’s comp. However, you can choose to be. Family members working in the company and members of certain business structures, like limited liability companies, are usually covered, but they can decide not to be.
What if My Employer Doesn’t Have Insurance?
Employers who don’t need to get the insurance because they have a small team or fall under the exceptions can still choose to get it. But if they don’t, and someone gets hurt at work, that worker can sue them.
As an injured worker, knowing these rules can empower you in the aftermath of a work injury, ensuring that you’re treated fairly and receive the compensation you’re entitled to.
If your employer doesn’t provide the designated provider list or isn’t cooperative during the process, it’s in your best interest to seek legal advice.
Where Can I Find the Required Dwc-1 Claim Form if My Employer Hasn’t Provided Me With It?
After experiencing a work-related injury, the DWC-1 Claim Form is essential for initiating your workers’ compensation claim process in Missouri. If your employer doesn’t provide this form, it’s available through the Missouri Department of Labor.
It’s crucial to fill out this form meticulously and submit it promptly to ensure your claim is processed without unnecessary delays. Remember, details matter in these forms. Not submitting complete or accurate information can hinder your ability to receive compensation.
What if My Employer Doesn’t Provide the Designated Provider List?
The designated provider list offers a choice of medical providers for your work-related injury treatment. By Missouri law, employers should provide this list to injured workers. If your employer neglects to give this list or delays, you have the right to choose your medical provider.
Still, always inform your employer about your choice. In these situations, documenting every step of your decision-making can be beneficial, ensuring you adhere to the rules and maximizing your potential compensation.
If I Do Not Discover an Injury Right Away, or if It Develops Over Time, Will This Affect My Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Occasionally, injuries aren’t immediately evident post-accident, or they might develop over a more extended period due to repetitive tasks at work. In these situations, the 30-day reporting rule applies from the day you become aware of the injury.
Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or chronic back pain from repetitive lifting might manifest slowly over time. When you realize the link between your job and the injury, it’s essential to report it promptly to your employer and initiate the workers’ comp claim process.
That said, these cases can be more challenging to prove, given the lack of a clear-cut “accident” event. Documentation, consistent medical evaluations, and possibly legal guidance can be invaluable in ensuring your claim’s success.
What Are Some of the Common Mistakes That People Make When They File a Claim?
Several pitfalls can hinder the success of a workers’ compensation claim. Firstly, delaying reporting the injury to your employer can be detrimental. Additionally, not seeking medical care immediately or not following medical advice can raise red flags for the insurance company.
Another common mistake is not keeping a detailed record of all events, medical treatments, and conversations related to the injury. Miscommunication or failure to communicate changes in your medical condition can also affect your benefits.
Lastly, taking on the complex claim process without legal guidance can sometimes lead to overlooked entitlements or misunderstandings about the process.
We urge you to stay informed and consider seeking legal advice to ensure that your claim is handled efficiently and that you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Should I Get Legal Help?
Facing the complexities of the workers’ compensation process or considering a personal injury lawsuit can be overwhelming for many.
Whether it’s dealing with an insurance company, gathering required documentation, or understanding workers’ compensation laws in Missouri, there are numerous intricacies that can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim.
Legal assistance is invaluable in ensuring you don’t leave money on the table. An attorney can guide you through the steps, provide clarity, and be your advocate in situations where you might feel outnumbered or overwhelmed.
What Will a Lawyer Do to Help My Worker’s Comp Claim?
When you engage a lawyer for your workers’ comp claim, they take on several roles to advocate for your rights. They’ll gather evidence to bolster your claim, ensuring that all medical records, witness statements, and any other pertinent documentation is in order.
If there’s a dispute about the extent of your injuries or the circumstances of your accident, an experienced lawyer can argue effectively on your behalf.
Additionally, they can navigate the complex web of workers’ compensation laws, ensuring your claim adheres to all Missouri regulations and timelines. Lawyers also negotiate with insurance companies, ensuring you receive a fair settlement.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me with a Personal Injury Claim?
For those considering a personal injury lawsuit, especially against an employer or a third party, legal assistance becomes even more crucial. A lawyer will assess the viability of your claim, considering elements like liability, the extent of your injuries, and potential compensation. They’ll investigate the circumstances of your injury, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build a compelling case.
Moreover, an attorney can help injured workers determine the most appropriate course of action, whether it’s through a workers’ compensation claim, a personal injury lawsuit, or both.
Sometimes Workers’ Comp Alone Isn’t Enough
It’s essential to understand that while workers’ comp offers essential protection and benefits for those injured on the job, it might not always fully address the financial and emotional toll of a serious injury.
For example, non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, or reduced quality of life aren’t covered by workers’ compensation.
This is where a personal injury lawsuit can be beneficial. By pursuing a claim beyond workers’ comp, injured individuals might be able to seek compensation that more accurately reflects their total losses and damages.
Get a Workers’ Compensation Attorney After a Workplace Injury
Facing a work-related injury can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience. Ensuring that you receive the compensation you deserve is crucial for your recovery and future well-being.
At Holman Schiavone, LLC, we’re here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring your rights are protected and helping you navigate the complexities of workers’ compensation and personal injury claims. If you believe you have a claim or simply need advice on the next steps, reach out to us for a free consultation at 816-320-6108. We’re here to help.