Proposed Workers’ Compensation Changes May Limit Injury Recoveries

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Friday, March 2, 2012

A proposal just passed by the Missouri state Senate is being presented as an expansion of the workers’ compensation system, bringing more types of workplace injuries within the coverage of the program. At first, that might sound like something beneficial to employees, but it actually is motivated by a desire to benefit employers. It gives employers the ability to bar employees with more types of work injuries, including those suffering from occupational diseases, from suing their employers in court.

This means that those injured employees would have a maximum cap placed on the recovery that they could obtain, with workers’ compensation benefits awards typically being far smaller than what might be recovered through a lawsuit in court and a jury verdict.

The proposed amended law would also limit employees seeking to sue fellow employees for on the job injuries, limiting such lawsuits to actions a coworker took which dangerously and purposefully resulted in harm.

The change concerning occupational diseases goes back to 2005 when Missouri lawmakers removed occupational diseases from the limitations of the workers’ compensation program. This action freed employees to go to court to seek adequate damages to provide care for themselves for the severe and often lifetime debilitating injuries caused by such things as exposure in the workplace to harmful toxins and chemicals, including asbestos. Exposure to asbestos can cause endothelium, a disabling and often fatal form of cancer.

Another provision in the proposed law would bar undocumented workers from collecting any workers’ compensation benefits at all, whether for ordinary workplace injury or death or occupational diseases. This would allow employers to completely escape paying such employees or their families any compensation at all for serious injuries or deaths caused by dangerous conditions in the workplace.

Source: KMOV-TV, “Workers’ Comp Program Could be Expanded,” Feb. 16, 2012

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