Missouri Second Injury Fund
I continue to take the SIF to trial.
You may have heard that the Workers Comp Second Injury Fund (SIF) is running out of money. So your claim against the Missouri Second Injury Fund is filed away and not pursued. I continue to take the SIF to trial. The SIF should be called the pre-existing condition fund as it has nothing to do with a second injury, but only deals with the employee’s pre-existing condition(s) that affect(s) his/her ability to perform job duties on a regular basis prior to the date of the primary injury. For example, at trial I ask “Let’s take a 6 month window before your injury of July 4th, 2011, did you have any medical condition(s) that affected your ability to do your job on a regular basis. This includes prior work and non-work injuries and/or medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and any other medical condition that slowed you down at work; any medical condition that may cause you to lift less (arthritic back); or to take unscheduled breaks (heart condition); or to miss work (depression).”
The purpose of the SIF is to compensate an injured employee for the additional disability caused by pre-existing medical conditions that, prior to the primary injury date, are either a hindrance or obstacle to the employee’s work or to reemployment. Who is worse off: Employee A with two good knees but now has a bad back from his on the job injury; or Employee A1 with the same back injury but also a bad knee from high school football? The additional disability that Employee A1 will have because of the combination of having a bad back, from his primary wc injury, and a bad knee, pre-existing, is compensated by the SIF. The evidence at trial needs to establish that your primary injury against the employer combines with your pre-existing medical conditions (work related or not) to create a greater overall disability than the simple sum. “It was tough for me to lift heavy boxes at work with my arthritic knee. Now, with my new back injury, I can hardly lift anything. I would kneel down to get the boxes, but I can’t because of my bad knee. Together, my knee and back really slow me down and limit me at work.”
As a result of a recent SIF trial for permanent partial disability, my client received an award of over $36,000. For prior injuries he received 25% of the low back, 12.5% psychiatric, 64% of the left wrist, 45% of the left knee, 25% of the low back, and 12.5% psychiatric. The primary claim was 25% of the neck and 21% of the shoulder. The SIF paid following the trial award. Again, this is a permanent partial case and not a permanent total. My client has a great attitude and continues to work despite a substantial amount of disabilities.
The SIF, as of January 2012, is paying the trial awards on permanent partial disability cases. The SIF is not paying on new permanent total awards, but will hopefully do so in the future if/when the SIF funding problem gets resolved. The SIF is paying permanent total awards from years past, but not from recent awards. The funding problem started back in 2005 when our legislature passed a bill that intentionally under funded the SIF. Gov. Blunt signed the bill into law despite knowing that the SIF would not have enough money to pay its claims. There are 100’s of work accident victims who have received permanent and total disability awards against the SIF. They rely on the weekly checks for income to pay bills and feed their families. The legislation put more money into the bank accounts of corporations and took compensation away from injured workers unable to compete in the open labor market. Like the rest of “tort reform” legislation, the work place was not made safer; our roads were not made safer; and the practice of medicine was not improved. They attack the compensation to be awarded to innocent victims so that corporations can increase profits.
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