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Injured at Work – How to Defeat an Employer’s “Equal Exposure” Defense


If you were injured at work but your claim is being denied by your employer or their insurance company due to “equal exposure,” contact our law office today!

Workers’ compensation laws are supposed to protect the worker injured at work or in the scope of their employment. However, in 2005, Missouri workers’ compensation laws changed significantly. In many instances, the law became more favorable to the employers and their work comp insurance companies. The term “equal exposure” was added to the statute’s definition of an “injury” covered by the workers’ compensation law. The result? Many employers and their insurance companies began denying claims that were once compensable.

What Is Equal Exposure?

The equal exposure defense examines the accident itself and essentially states that it could have just as easily happened outside of the workplace, making it non-work-related. For instance, an office worker making coffee in the break room may slip and injure her ankle. Since she was not performing a job-related task, she may be denied coverage for her injury. The outcome might be entirely different if she suffered the same injury in the photocopy room.

The rulings surrounding equal exposure defenses are fluid and very case-specific. An experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer knows what the courts need to hear to prove your claim was, in fact, work-related. As an employee, you have the right to appeal any decision made by your employer regarding your claim, and you may decide to exercise that right with the help of an attorney.

Equal Exposure Case

One case is that of Maral Annayeva, a former high school English teacher at Roosevelt High School. On January 8, 2013, she walked from the school parking lot carrying curriculum folders, student papers, and lesson plans. She walked through the front entrance, two sets of doors. She was headed to clock in when she slipped and fell. The school guards helped her to the nurse’s station, where she filled out an injury report.

It’s important to note that there weren’t any floor mats on the floor between either set of doors for her to wipe her feet on. However, when asked in the report to specify what caused her to fall, she wrote that she “could not determine the cause of the accident.”

She went to the ER that day and received medical treatment. However, she returned to the ER the following day due to the pain she was suffering. After her injury, she went back to work for a brief period but could not continue working due to the pain she was experiencing. Her subsequent treatment included injections to her knee, spine adjustments, an MRI of her head, and x-rays of her spine.

She received physical therapy and ended up going to more than 15 care providers after a time. Ultimately her only diagnoses were somatic symptom disorder, depression, and preexisting anxiety. Therefore, the ALJ held that she failed to show medical causation, and her benefits were denied. It was determined that she did not fall due to, nor were her injuries worsened by, a condition of her employment. In addition, because she had not yet clocked in, they went further and said she wasn’t even technically at work yet.

Contact a Workers’ Comp Attorney

If you were injured at work and are being denied benefits, contact The Law Office of James M. Hoffmann. Our attorneys will work with you, regardless of where you are in the process. We work with employees from various industries to pursue the right benefits or to appeal a denial of your injury claim.

Updated: May 12, 2022
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