Here are your rights as an injured worker in Missouri!
If you have experienced a work related injury in Missouri, you may be asking, “What are my rights?”
Injured workers, you have the right:
Make a Missouri Workers Compensation Claim
You can make a claim for workers compensation if your company is located in Missouri, whether the injury occurs in Missouri or outside of Missouri; or if you are an employee from a company located in a different state but was injured while working in Missouri; or if your contract of employment (ie: temporary staffing work) was fully completed within the state of Missouri, regardless of where the employer sends you to work (ie: a nurse hired by a Missouri temp agency that sends you to Boston for nine months to train nurses at a new hospital).
Report a Missouri Work Injury
You have 30 days to report an acute injury. No employer rule can shorten this time. You have 30 days to report a repetitive use type injury once you learn that your job, over time, has caused an injury. (ie: 6 months after seeing your family doctor for back pain, he finally says “your job moving patients/ carrying laundry/ lifting concrete/maintenance worker/etc, has caused damage to your back.) At this time, you should report this injury.
Give It to Your Employer in Writing
You have a right to give the employer a letter reporting the injury. If the employer does not prepare a written report, or seems to be ignoring you, prepare a letter confirming that you verbally reported the injury and write down the date you reported it, who you reported to, and that you have not heard from the work comp adjuster. Date it and keep copies!!!!
Get All the Medical Care You Need
You have a right to receive medical care after reporting the injury. In 2013, the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann had a case for an injured employee. In the commission it sanctioned the employer and ruled “we reject the employer’s suggestion that an injured worker must prove the compensability of her injury before employer has any obligation to provide medical examination or treatment. It is contrary to the express language of § 287.140 rsmo, that provides “the employee shall receive and the employer shall provide such medical, surgical, chiropractic, and hospital treatment, including nursing, custodial, ambulance and medicines, as may reasonably be required after the injury or disability, to cure and relieve from the effects of the injury.” The statue says an employer shall provide the medical services listed therein and the statute does not make employer’s obligation to provide medical service contingent upon a medical opinion (or, worse yet, an award) finding the injury compensable. It would be absurd, for example, if the legislature intended that an employer must provide ambulance transportation to a critically injured worker, but only after the critically injured worker provided employer with a medical opinion that the injury giving rise to the need for ambulance transportation was work-related.”
Get the Right Medical Care for Your Missouri Work Injury
You can reject medical care offered by the employer and use your health insurance. Or to use your health insurance for your own doctor if medical care is refused or if your case is denied. However, most doctor’s offices won’t treat your work injury unless you have a letter from the employer refusing medical care. Your attorney can help you through this by working with doctors who agree to treat on a lien basis. Your attorney will then pursue your medical bills at trial, provided that a request for treatment was denied by the employer. Then hand deliver a letter, or letters, to your boss confirming your report of injury and your need for medical care. Keep several copies!!
Keep Your Own Records
Record your doctor visits. Make sure you document everything about your Missouri work related injury! Numerous times clients are shocked to find out that the workers’ comp doctor failed to document numbness, tingling, etc. Tell the doctor that your recorder is on and that you will record each visit. At a minimum, hand deliver letters to the doctor’s office confirming what was discussed during your office exams, date it and keep copies!!!!
Get Paid While You’re Unable to Work
You have the right to receive wage loss, or TTD, temporary total disability, when you are off work and are being treated by the doctor. It is 2/3’s of your average weekly wage, but it is tax free. If the doctor authorizes light duty but the employer has none, you get TTD. The insurance company will push the doctor to say “MMI,” which is maximum medical improvement. With MMI, the workers compensation carrier cuts off your TTD, regardless of whether you can work. You can be at MMI and still require future medical care for life. If you can no longer work, your attorney will retain experts to pursue a claim for PTD, or permanent total disability. These claims take time, require experts, and are highly disputed by work comp insurers. Many clients suffer financial hardships during the time it takes to fight a PTD case. Filing for unemployment will hurt your workers’ comp case unless you specifically write on your unemployment forms (and keep copies) “I am out of work due to a work injury. The work comp doctor released mee from care with restrictions of______? I am willing to try and work within these restrictions but I will need to rest on occasion due to pain and a ride to work due to my pain meds.” Keep copies!!!
Pursue Hardships for Your Work Related Injury
You have the right to pursue hardships. Your attorney will need experts and deposition testimony to prove your case. Hardships are temporary awards to request an order from the judge for a denied surgery or to reinstate TTD. The risk with hardships is that you lose and the surgery is denied. A better position to be in at court, is to have your lawyer find a good doctor who will perform the surgery on a lien basis. The surgeon can testify as to the damage and injury he saw with his own eyes during surgery so, that when the work comp doctor says “no herniated disc, it’s just arthritis”, your doctor says “Wrong. I did the surgery. I saw the herniated disc. It was recent and caused by the work injury.”
Refuse Work You Believe Will Make Your Condition Worse
You can refuse work that is not within the doctor restrictions. Be sure to give a letter to your boss confirming what happened, date it and keep copies!!! If the doctor restrictions are not enough, give a note to your boss stating, “the workers’ comp doctor said I can work with a 20 lb lifting restriction. A lumbar fusion was performed for my work injury. I am in constant pain and can’t sleep much at night. I am drowsy and nap all day. I take narcotic pain meds which make me drowsy. I can’t concentrate. There is no way I can lift 20 lbs, but the work comp doctor does not seem to care. I’ll try, but I will need to lay down every hour. Let me know.” Give a note to the workers’ compensation doctor as well!!! Date it and keep copies.
Take the Drug Test
Take the drug tests. There are big penalties if you don’t. Smoking pot a week ago on Saturday has no relation to your herniated disc, lifting a box, or broken leg caused by an inattentive forklift driver.
Get a Missouri Workers Compensation Lawyer
Hire an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation attorney! All disability must be determined by a doctor. If you rely on the workers’ comp doctor to assess your disability, you will settle for a fraction of the value of your case. Make sure your attorney obtains all records and diagnostic studies before he/she sends you to the rating doctor. You want a fully informed physician.
The Work Comp Investigator is Watching
Expect to be video recorded by the workers compensation insurance investigator. They will watch you from the doctor’s windows. That pretty gal in the store who asks for help to lift a 50lb bag of dog food probably has a video in her purse. Your large yard or farm has trees which are great places to hide while recording a video. Assume you are being recorded 24 hours a day.
Make Thorough Notes for the Doctor
You have the right to write anything anywhere you want on the work comp doctors intake forms and body charts. Scratch through “ yes or no” and write out “I have numbness and pain into my leg starting in my low back.” The work comp doctor does not need a list of all prior employers to treat you: just write “no back problems or treatment before I hurt my back lifting at work on June 15, 2015.” Write in the margins or on the back side of the page. If x’s, o’s, and #’s on body charts confuse you, just write “I have numbness down my leg…tingling in my leg…pain in my leg and back and draw an arrow to the body chart.”
Request a Courteous and Professional Doctor
On numerous occasions, clients have told me they had to wait 2 or more hours to finally see the doctor. My recommendation is this: after one hour tell the receptionist you are leaving. Then, give a note to the claims adjustor that you left the doctor’s office after waiting more than an hour past your scheduled time. In your note, request a physician that will be timely, courteous, and professional.
Refuse the Requests of the FCE Person
You have the right to refuse the requests of the FCE person and to leave at any time. When workers compensation doctors place you at MMI after a surgery or serious injury, they try and help the workers’ comp insurer by sending you for an FCE, or functional capacity evaluation, to show that you can work. This is done by a physical therapist who is seeing you for the first time and knows very little, or nothing, about your injury and ongoing problems. This person may ask you to lift 30 lbs twenty times: they don’t care if you are hurting for the next 2 weeks. Refuse if you think this will hurt you even worse. Just say, “no, I can’t do that.” Have a friend video the session. Sit down and rest anytime you need to and leave if the therapist is rude or mean and trying to force you to do things.
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