If you are injured in an accident while working at your job or learn that your medical condition was caused by your working conditions, you are entitled to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Under R.S.Mo. § 287.030.3, all employers in Missouri with five or more employees, with very few exceptions for farming and construction employers, must either provide workers’ compensation insurance or be self-insured to protect their employees when they are injured or contract occupational illnesses at work. Scroll down to learn how to apply for workers’ compensation and what rights and responsibilities injured employees have.
How to Apply for Workers’ Compensation
To obtain compensation from your employer for your work-related injury or illness, you must understand that there are certain duties and responsibilities that the law places squarely upon the injured employee. Missouri has specific rules in place for providing your employer notice and requesting benefits so that you can receive compensation.
1. Notify Your Employer
As soon as you are injured at work or learn that you have developed an occupational disease, you should notify your employer.
Under Missouri law, you must notify your employer within 30 days of your accident, or within 30 days of the discovery that your illness is work-related. When you notify your employer, make sure you do so in writing (letter, text, or email). This will prevent any confusion later as to whether you properly notified your employer or not. Include the date of the incident during which you were injured or the date you learned that your medical condition was related to your job. List the details of how your injury occurred, where it occurred, the time it occurred, and provide your contact information. Be sure to sign and date this letter, and keep a copy for your records. Although there are exceptions to the notification rule, best practice is to notify your employer ASAP after learning of a workplace injury or alleged occupational illness.
Once you notify your employer, someone in H.R. should give you a form to fill out. Complete the employee section, and return it to your employer to complete the employer section. Your employer must file this report with the Division of Workers’ Compensation and notify its insurance company. If you learn that your employer or the insurance carrier failed to file the appropriate forms with the Division of Workers’ Compensation on time, they might be subject to penalties and fines. You may notify the Division of Workers’ Compensation yourself. See the section below on filing a formal claim.
2. Seek Medical Care
Your employer should arrange for you to receive medical care for your injuries. Make sure to attend your medical appointment and any recommended follow-up care. Your employer is responsible for providing immediate medical care for your injuries, and you should not be required to pay for it. If your employer does not offer medical treatment for your injury, make sure you specifically request it from your supervisor or manager, both verbally and in writing.
Note that a medical record is made from each encounter you have with a medical professional, and it records all conversations, discussions, and findings. These will be used as evidence later in your case.
3. File a Formal Claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation
Once your employer has contacted its insurance provider to review your claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the company will investigate your claim. The insurance company should send you a notice that your claim has been accepted or denied. If your claim remains unsettled, you can file a claim for compensation with the Division of Workers’ Compensation at the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. It is very important to remember that in Missouri a Formal Claim for Workers’ Compensation MUST be filed within two years of the injury or diagnosed illness, EVEN IF YOUR EMPLOYER AND THEIR INSURANCE CARRIER HAVE ACCEPTED YOUR CLAIM. Failing to file the right documents in a timely fashion could cause you to lose the right to any further compensation.
4. Dispute Resolution
If disputes arise between you and your employer or their insurer, you might need to explore other options, such as having a conference with an administrative law judge (ALJ) or going through mediation. These services are designed to facilitate resolutions short of engaging in formal litigation.
Before you can have a workers’ compensation trial (called a Final Hearing), you will likely need to go through several steps. You will need to attend a pre-hearing before an administrative law judge to discuss your case once you have filed your claim. You and your employer can ask for a pre-hearing if you want to present a potential settlement agreement to the ALJ or have disputes that need to be resolved. This may help move your case closer to a resolution.
Obtain the Services of an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The workers’ compensation claims process has quickly become complex. If your injuries are serious and your employer or their insurer stands to owe a significant amount of money, they may attempt to throw up as many roadblocks and delays to your case as possible. If you have been seriously injured at work, you should consult an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave to ensure that you file your claim correctly and for help with any issues that might arise. There is NEVER a charge to discuss your potential case. Additionally, most clients are not able to pay an attorney out of pocket, so we offer a contingent-fee agreement to our clients. Such fees are essentially set by law in Missouri at 25 percent. Call us today at 417-322-2222 (Springfield) or 417-624-4258 (Joplin) for a free case evaluation or contact us online.