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In Missouri, Chapter 287 is known as the Worker's Compensation Law. Worker’s compensation is largely a compromise between employers and employees. Employers receive a strict limitation on liability for work-related injuries. Unlike other injuries—which are controlled by general negligence laws—where an employer can be liable for all medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages, work comp claims are limited to statutory damages.
However, the employer also has given up something to get these limited damages. An employee that is injured on the job doesn’t need to prove culpability on the part of the employer. This means that there is no need to show an employer acted carelessly, could have been more careful, or should have been more careful. Rather, once the employee shows that the injury occurred within the course and scope of his or her employment, liability attaches to the employer; the employer must provide treatment to cure and/or relieve the work-related injury.
One final difference between worker’s compensation and other injury claims is the venue of the case. Most lawsuits are “civil suits,” filed in state or federal court. These cases are heard by a jury and legal issues are resolved by a judge. Work comp claims are quite different. They are handled by an administrative body: the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Board. Most cases will initially be handle by the Division of Worker’s Compensation and heard by an administrative law judge or ALJ. A jury will never hear and decide a work comp claim—this is another big win for employers. Instead, an ALJ will decide disputes that arise in the course of the claim. The ALJ will ultimately either approve a settlement reached by the employee and employer, or will hear the case an issue an “award.” An award is similar to a verdict or order in a civil lawsuit.
Work comp cases are not civil lawsuits. This means that different rules apply in these proceedings and an entirely different procedure is used to pursue these claims. The worker’s compensation laws of Missouri are complex and unique. Even an attorney with a wealth of experience in the civil arena can quickly become overwhelmed with the administrative process. This is why it is vitally important that you seek an attorney that specializes in worker’s compensation claims. If you have been hurt at work, contact us today to find out if we can help you get the treatment and benefits you are entitled to as a Missouri worker!
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