- What should I do if I have been injured at work?
When you are hurt on the job, you should report the accident and your injury immediately to your supervisor, foreman, first aid person, or such other appropriate person designated by your employer. Immediate notice ensures that you receive timely and appropriate medical attention and that your injury is properly recorded or documented. The Missouri workers’ compensation law requires that you give written notice within 30 days of the date of the accident. You must give written notice of occupational disease claims within 30 days of the diagnosis of the condition.
In addition, our attorneys are available to assist you in filing a formal claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Please contact our office for more information.
- Should I report an accidental injury even if it is a small one?
Yes. Many very serious conditions develop from seemingly minor injuries. It is most important that you report all injuries and accidents no matter how small they may seem to you at the time.
- Are all injuries sustained at work compensable under the workers’ compensation law?
No. It is possible for an injury to occur in the course of employment, but not arise out of it. There are exceptions, however. If your employer has denied you benefits because it considers your injury non-compensable, you should consult an attorney.
- If I discover later that I sustained injuries of which I was unaware at the time of the accident, what should I do?
You should report these newly discovered injuries to your employer as soon as possible. It is imperative that your report be written and that you retain a copy for your records.
- Can my employer fire me because I have filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits?
No. It is unlawful for your employer to terminate you or discriminate against you because you have chosen to pursue your rights under the workers’ compensation law. However, the fact that you have filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits does not protect you from being fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor work performance. If your employer takes or threatens to take any adverse employment action (termination, demotion, suspension, etc.) after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you should contact an attorney immediately.
- Can I choose my own doctor to treat my work-related injury?
Because your employer must pay for your medical treatment, your employer has the right to select the physician who will treat your injury. You can request that your employer authorize you to be treated by a particular doctor, but your employer is not obligated to comply with your request. You are always free to obtain treatment from a doctor of your choice, but unless your employer authorized the treatment, you must pay for it on your own. If your employer refuses to provide medical treatment for a work-related injury and you are required to obtain treatment on your own, you may receive reimbursement for any medical treatment that is reasonable and necessary to cure your injury. If possible, you should obtain a written refusal to provide medical treatment from your employer. You may also choose your own doctor or hospital in the case of an emergency.
- Must I accept my employer’s doctor’s opinion as final?
No. If there is any doubt in your mind, consult your own doctor. Be aware that you will likely have to pay your doctor and that any health insurance you have will probably not cover this cost. You should see a physician who is familiar with workers’ compensation – our attorneys can assist you in this regard.
- What happens if I suffer a permanent injury following a previous disability from another accident?
If your previous disability is to a different part of the body, and the resulting combination of disability is substantially greater than what would have resulted from your current accident alone, you may be entitled to additional benefits from the Second Injury Fund (SIF). There are certain minimum thresholds of disability for SIF liability and you should seek legal advice if you think you may be eligible. Note that the previous or pre-existing disability need not have been work-related in order to implicate the SIF.
- How long after the accident do I have to file my claim?
Generally, you must file your claim within two years from the date of your accident or the date your employer last made a payment on account of your injury. However, you should never wait until the last minute. You should file your claim immediately because it may be difficult to prove your case if you delay. If your employer fails to file a report of injury with the Division of Workers’ Compensation, the deadline to file a claim is extended to three years.