If you suffer an injury while working, you may have a worker’s compensation claim. An award stemming from such a claim should make you whole as you were before the injury and cover a wide range of related expenses.

In a news release dated 3 Nov 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020. However, less than 40% of this number lodge a claim for worker’s compensation. So don’t be part of the 60%  who lost out due to a failure to launch a lawsuit. This is most probably due to ignorance of their rights to claim.

The law obliges almost all employers to have insurance to cover injuries to their employees while on the job. The insurance would cover illnesses, injuries, and even fatalities suffered at the workplace.

A work-related injury can result in unpaid wages, massive medical bills, and high related costs and expenses.

When do I need to see a lawyer?

If your injury is minor, was work-related, did not involve significant expenses to aid recovery, had a brief recovery period, and resulted in no permanent disability, it is probably not necessary to see a lawyer. Insurance companies are not likely to object to these run-of-the-mill claims and will typically pay those claims out, however, it is advised you see a lawyer if the insurance company denies your claim.

If your injury is not clearly work-related, involves significant expenses, and takes a long time to heal, seek out a law firm that specializes in worker’s compensation claims immediately after medical attention. Knowledgeable personal injury law firms such as the Dixon Injury Firm based in St Louis, MO, can help you understand if you have a claim and go to bat for you with insurance companies.  Insurance companies are much more likely to repudiate such claims or, at best, try to minimize their payout, so it’s best to have a lawyer on your side.

Usually, your initial consultation is entirely free, and your attorney will advise you on whether you have a claim and whether it is worth pursuing. The lawyers at the Dixon Injury Firm work on a contingency basis if your accident happened in the greater St. Louis area, and you decide to appoint them to represent you. You will only pay them if they are successful. Your legal fee will be deducted from the award they manage to secure for you.

What kind of injuries are covered?

Most injuries suffered while on the job are covered, including illnesses caused by exposure to work activities, work equipment, and accidents.

Some injuries are not claimable under workmen’s comp claims. Injuries resulting from horseplay or fighting while at work, self-inflicted injuries, injuries sustained while committing a crime, or even violating company policies are not entertained. Injuries while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs are also not covered. Stress and psychiatric disorders are not claimable.

Partial or temporary disability can also be claimed.

If a relative is killed on the job, $5,000 can be claimed towards funeral expenses.

In cases where the injury prevents you from doing your previous work, the employer is obliged to provide you with training at their expense that will enable you to deliver other work for the organization.

When should I report work-related injuries to my employer?

As soon as practically possible. The employer must be notified within 30 to  45 days of the injury in most states. For example, Missouri law requires 30 days within which you need to tell your employer.

Different states have different time limits within which a claim can be filed. This usually is only one year from the reported date of the injury, but the State of Missouri allows for two years. The type of injury can also determine the amount of time within which a claim can be instituted.

It is a good idea to see an attorney about your potential claim sooner rather than later due to the prescriptive periods involved.

Can I claim pain and suffering?

Since a workman’s compensation claim provides a trade-off mechanism between employers and their workers, pain and suffering are not claimable. You can claim lost wages and other expenses as outlined above in exchange for giving up this right. You are prevented from suing the employer directly.

What if I was not working for the company at the time – can I still claim workers comp?

You must have suffered the injury during your employment for you to claim. This includes any recreational time mandated by the employer but would not involve injuries sustained from a motor vehicle accident while not on duty.

Steps to take after a work-related injury

Be aware that there are time limits to report the injury to your employer. So the first thing to do is to submit in writing (email or letter) details of the accident to your employer. Do this as soon as possible and definitely within 30 days of the date of the injury.

The employer may request you to be examined by one of their appointed doctors. It’s essential to have your legal representative at the examination as it’s not unheard of for some doctors to minimize injuries and ignore the accident’s long-term consequences.

If you are involved in a car accident during your work, be sure to report any signs of neck pain and wrist numbness in your initial report, even if these pains seem inconsequential at the time – they could have costly consequences later.

You must also lodge your claim with workmen’s compensation within two years in Missouri, or you face the possibility of not being able to claim once this period has been prescribed.

Remember that insurance company representatives are not on your side and will do what they can to pay as little as possible. Therefore, it is good to allow your attorney to handle the insurance company as far as possible to ensure you do not prejudice your claim.

The doctor’s examination

At the doctor’s examination, the doctor will ask for your version of the event which caused the injury. Then, if needed, they will examine you and have the necessary tests done to assist in a diagnosis.

The medical examination aims to categorize the level of your injury. Different categories attract different levels of award amounts. This is why it is vital to have your lawyer at the medical exam if possible.