Introduction to workers' comp

"Workers' Compensation in Missouri: Succeeding in Your Injury Claim"

I wrote this book to help guide injured workers and their lawyers through the complex statute that provides their exclusive remedy for on the job injuries in Missouri. Although the workers’ compensation statutes offer workers’ many rights, employers and their insurers are well represented and often work to prematurely return the injured to work, to reduce benefits during the claim and to minimize permanent disability to reduce settlement at the end of the case.

If injured on the job, a worker can file a claim for compensation to make sure they get medical benefits, partial disability payments and a lump sum disability payment at the end of the case. The law guarantees rights and remedies and Administrative Law Judges decide cases to fairly compensate workers. But the law and the ALJs also give rights and protections to employers and their insurers.
There are good employers and insurers of course, but we find ourselves fighting for proper benefits and medical care more and more – rather than less. Even if the employer likes the employee, insurance companies often come in to try to undercompensate the employee.

Does the injured worker need a lawyer? Sometimes. You can file your own claim and try to get a good recovery. In a small case the injured worker can stand a fighting chance against the insurance company and employer in negotiating their settlement. Attorneys increase the value of settlements in workers’
compensation cases by on average 50%, and Burger Law is well above average. We know how to maximize this one chance for recovery and have had tremendous luck getting big settlements in the past. There are continuing changes to workers’ compensation statutes that often make it more difficult for unrepresented claimants to recover. It’s important for attorneys like me to share our knowledge with the public.

In 2005, the Missouri workers’ compensation statute was amended to remove the positions of public advisors to unrepresented workers. This change represents a shift away from the historical purpose of the workers’ compensation statute to encourage compromise between workers’ and employers and towards
a more adversarial system. This history informs us about the system we are up against.

Historically, workers’ compensation laws arose as a means to address abuses by employers who used evasive litigation tactics to deny workers’ justice. That practice continues into the present day. Prior to the adoption of workers’ compensation laws, injured workers could sue their employers in tort in state court. Although this has the upside for the worker of providing a means to a potentially large recovery, the downside is that it can be extremely expensive to do so and also can take a long time to actually get the recovery.

In the early 1900’s, labor movement radicals such as Upton Sinclair (famous for being the author of The Jungle) succeeded in arousing the sympathies of the general public to workers that were being mistreated. Because of the development of a rapidly industrialized manufacturing economy, there were
numerous factory jobs that had not developed the requisite safety codes to safely protect workers from the potential for large injuries on the job.

Often times, workers were injured on the job and then unable to recover anything because employers would use the delay tactics in the civil litigation process to slow their ability to recover. Because workers couldn’t afford attorneys, there was usually nothing they could do.

To address that sympathy and prevent general strikes, employers made a compromise, allowing workers to recover compensation for their injuries without having to prove fault. In return, workers waived their right to recover for anything in pain and suffering damages.

Although the workers’ compensation system tries to bridge the gap between employer need for efficiency and worker need for justice, I still often see employers acting like they are from the early 1900s and using delay tactics to prevent proper recovery. Employers are naturally incentivized by the market to provide lesser amounts of safety precautions for their employees in order to
make them do their jobs more quickly.

This book is intended to serve as a precaution for workers in Missouri who have been injured on the job and provide basic guidelines of law and frequently encountered legal issues. It is essential that injured workers understand what they are getting themselves into when they file a claim. Although the system is designed in such a way as to give injured workers the right to resist employers drive toward maximizing efficiency at the expense of the people they employ.

At the time of publishing this book new amendments to the workers’ compensation laws are being passed by the Missouri Legislature as well. Changes in definitions of maximum medical improvement and the standard for recovery under a retaliatory discharge claim are on their way. For the latest updates, call us or visit our workers compensation page. You can also view the other books I have written here.

I would like to help all injured workers, even those that do not choose to hire me as their attorney. For that reason, I wanted to write a book to provide as much information as possible about the workers' compensation system so that they will be able to make their case as effectively as possible.

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