After suffering a work-related injury, it is important to understand your rights and what to expect from the workers’ compensation process. In Missouri, most employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance, which covers a portion of lost wages and medical expenses for work-related injuries and illnesses. However, securing the full financial compensation to which you are entitled can be complicated. This is why many injured workers turn to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for legal guidance through the process. At Steelman Gaunt Crowley, our team of dedicated Missouri work injury lawyers helps our clients fight for the financial compensation they deserve. Contact us today at (573) 341-8336 to learn more about what to expect after a work-related injury or illness.
How Does Workers’ Comp Work in Missouri?
According to the Missouri Department of Insurance, the state’s workers’ compensation system is a form of no-fault insurance that provides benefits to workers injured on the job. These benefits cover medical care, two-thirds of lost wages, and permanent disability for injured workers. Most employers Missouri are required to cover most employees under a workers’ compensation insurance plan.
In exchange for providing this coverage, employers are generally protected from facing civil lawsuits for workplace injuries involving negligence. While an injury suffered outside of the workplace could involve a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party, injured workers typically may only seek financial compensation for their injuries by filing workers’ comp claims. This system is designed to protect employees by providing them with the financial support they need while out of work and recovering from an injury, and to protect employers by shielding them from expensive lawsuits.
How Can a Workers’ Comp Lawyer Help?
Although injured workers are free to navigate the workers’ compensation claims process on their own, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can make the process much easier. Employers and insurance companies often maintain their own lawyers for this process, and sometimes these parties may attempt to deny valid workers’ compensation claims. Injured workers should consider having a lawyer on their side who understands how to work with employers and insurers to secure the benefits their clients deserve.
Similar to personal injury claims, workers’ comp claims require evidence. An experienced lawyer can help gather the medical evidence that proves the injury was work-related and demonstrates how severe the injuries are. Vocational evidence can also be useful, such as testimony from a vocational expert regarding the physical requirements of the injured worker’s job.
Some of the main ways an attorney can help organize medical evidence to support a workers’ comp claim include:
- Gathering medical records for all treatment following the injury
- Documenting referrals to medical specialists
- Getting official medical opinion statements from treating physicians
- Representation during depositions
- Questioning medical experts during depositions
You can learn more about how a workers’ compensation lawyer can help gather evidence by contacting Steelman Gaunt Crowley’s Missouri workers’ compensation lawyers.
Workers’ compensation claims typically involve negotiation between the injured worker, or the worker’s attorney if they have retained counsel, and the employer’s insurance company. Workers’ comp lawyers specialize in evaluating work injury cases and determining how much each case is worth based on a variety of factors. If an attorney manages to secure a fair settlement agreement with the insurance provider, the injured worker can often receive the financial support they need much more quickly than they would if they went to trial.
Attorneys practicing in this area of law also regularly work with workers’ comp insurance carriers and have extensive negotiation experience. They understand the tactics that insurance companies use to deny valid claims, and how to navigate these strategies when negotiating for a fair settlement. Some of the main factors evaluated when negotiating a settlement include:
- The severity of the injuries and how they have limited what the injured worker can do
- Past medical expenses and the cost of ongoing and future care
- Whether the worker has permanent impairments, and if so, the severity of these impairments
- The injured worker’s average weekly wages
- Whether the employer owed the worker for past temporary disability benefits and late payment penalties
Representation in Court
When a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation alone, a workers’ compensation case may go to court with either an administrative hearing or a trial in front of a judge. This process begins with discovery, in which an employment lawyer may take depositions of witnesses, conduct legal research, request medical records, and handle correspondence with the insurance company. During the hearing, the lawyer presents their client’s case and explain why they deserve benefits for their work-related injury. If the court does not rule in an injured worker’s favor, the worker has a right to appeal the decision, in which case the attorney may help with the appeals process as well.
Exploring Possible Third-Party Negligence
As previously mentioned, filing a lawsuit against the employer is typically not an option for Missouri workers who get hurt on the job. However, a personal injury lawsuit may be an option if a work-related injury was caused by the negligence of a third party––meaning anyone other than the injured worker’s employer or co-workers. If a warehouse worker were injured in an accident caused by a defective piece of heavy machinery, the manufacturer of that heavy machinery could potentially be held liable in a product liability lawsuit. Workers’ comp lawyers examine all aspects of their work injury cases to determine if third-party negligence was a factor, advise their clients on their legal options, and help file personal injury claims against the negligent parties.
How Do I File a Workers’ Comp Claim in Missouri?
Adhering to the procedures established under state law for reporting and pursuing claims is important to ensuring the most successful outcomes. The Missouri Department of Labor advises workers to go through the following steps following work-related injuries:
- Report the injury to the employer or supervisor within 30 days. Waiting longer than 30 days could put the claim in jeopardy.
- Get prompt medical treatment
- File a claim for compensation with the Division of Workers’ Compensation
Contact Our Missouri Work Injury Lawyers
If you have recently suffered a work-related injury or illness and have questions about the workers’ comp process, Steelman Gaunt Crowley can help. Contact us today at (573) 341-8336 to discuss your options and what to expect from the process with an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer.