We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented and nationwide pandemic, and nothing is certain. Coronavirus has rapidly begun to affect nearly every facet of life, and workers’ compensation legal claims in Missouri are no exception.
While businesses continue to adapt to these ever-changing circumstances, this will also inevitably give rise to questions about workers’ compensation rights and benefits for employees. If you are wondering how COVID-19 could affect your workers’ comp rights, contact us today.
While our Joplin, Missouri workers’ compensation lawyers don’t take employment or unemployment cases, we do have extensive experience handling workers’ compensation claims. We are ready to adapt to these changing times and help you with your case.
Overview of Missouri Workers’ Compensation
Missouri workers’ compensation laws provide a statutory avenue for recovery for employees who sustain work-related injuries or diseases. If you sustain injuries that arise out of and in the course of your employment, then you may be entitled to compensation.
What Are Employers Required to Do?
In general, a Missouri employer with five or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, construction companies with one or more employees must also carry workers’ compensation insurance.
Additionally, under Missouri workers’ compensation law, an employer or its insurer must provide compensation for medical treatment and care to cure and provide relief to an employee injured on the job. However, the employer does have the right to choose the medical provider for the injured employee.
What Do I Need to Do?
To get the compensation you deserve, there are certain steps that you must take. Below are some crucial things to keep in mind as you navigate your workers’ compensation claim:
Notify your employer
First and foremost, you must report any work-related injury immediately to your employer or supervisor in writing. Failure to do so within thirty days of an accident or diagnosis for any occupational disease could jeopardize your potential recovery.
Seek medical care
While the employer has the right to choose the provider or treating physician, your employer must cover the cost. Thus, once you get approval from your employer, you should absolutely get the medical care and treatment you are entitled to.
There is a two-year time limit to file a claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation, so time is of the essence. Make sure to contact an attorney as soon as practicable to maximize your chances of success.
Workers’ compensation is a great benefit to employees. In general, an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will pay for all reasonably necessary medical care related to your on-the-job injury or illness.
Specifically, employers must compensate employees for the following under Missouri workers’ compensation law:
- Medical, surgical, and chiropractic services;
- Hospital treatment;
- Nursing and custodial expenses;
- Ambulance costs; and
However, make sure that you first get approval for your treatment. Otherwise, you may end up being responsible for the expenses you incur.
Missouri workers’ compensation will also help make up for lost wages if you are unable to work for a period of time due to your workplace accident. If your injury results in permanent disability, you may even be entitled to long-term benefits.
Workers’ Compensation for Occupational Diseases
Missouri workers’ compensation law specifically covers occupational diseases in addition to injuries sustained on the job. An occupational disease is a condition or illness that results from exposure in the workplace.
Employees who contract an occupational disease are generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
However, Missouri workers’ compensation law requires an employee to prove that the workplace environment was the “prevailing factor” that caused the medical condition and disability. This means that the cause of contracting the occupational disease must be related to the conditions that exist in that particular job.
How Coronavirus Relates to Missouri Workers’ Compensation
This raises an important question: Can you recover workers’ compensation benefits if you contract COVID-19? The answer, unfortunately, may not be so simple.
Generally, workers’ compensation benefits are not available for ordinary diseases that the public at large is exposed to, such as the flu or common cold. However, due to the unprecedented nature of Coronavirus, this is largely uncharted territory. On the one hand, COVID-19 is a nationwide pandemic, to which a significant portion of the public has certainly been exposed. This could make it difficult to prove that the workplace environment was the prevailing factor in contracting the disease, which is necessary to prevail on a workers’ compensation claim.
On the other hand, the State of Missouri has not closed off any possibility of covering such claims. In fact, Governor Mike Parson and State Labor Department Director Anna Hui recently announced a new rule providing that all first responders who contract COVID-19 shall be presumed to have contracted the virus in the course of their official duties. This could go a long way in determining how workers’ compensation coverage for Coronavirus will be handled moving forward.
How a Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help
It is always a good idea to contact a Missouri workers’ comp lawyer to discuss any legal issues you may be facing. But now, more than ever, it is crucial.
The legal landscape is rapidly changing to accommodate and adapt to the issues raised by COVID-19. If you believe you have contracted COVID-19 during the course of your work, you may be entitled to compensation. However, navigating a successful claim on your own may be an uphill battle.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you assess your case and fight to prove that your work environment was the prevailing factor in contracting COVID-19. This could make the difference in achieving a successful claim.
Contact Us Today
If your workers’ compensation claim has been denied, you believe you have not received all the benefits you are entitled to, or you have questions about whether your Coronavirus-related claim qualifies under Missouri workers’ compensation law, now is the time to act.
When it comes to your health and your workers’ compensation claims, you deserve the best. Wes Cottrell has been helping injured workers for over three decades. He knows what it takes to successfully handle a Missouri workers’ compensation claim, and he is prepared to navigate this new space to fight for you.