Industrial Commission Believes Worker’s Expert over Company Expert

The case of Wright v. TG Missouri Corp. was decided by the Missouri Labor and Industrial Commission on January 21, 2016. The Commission decides appeals from workers’ compensation decisions handed down by administrative law judges who hear workmen’s comp trials of the employee against his employer and their workers’ compensation insurance company. Either or both sides can file an appeal.

This case involves an extremely common defense employers, with the help of the company doctors they send their injured workers to be treated by, raise to many if not most of their employees’ workers compensation claims whenever they can. Whenever their employees hurt on the job are shown on x-rays, MRI’s or CT-scans to some form of degenerative, arthritic condition or fraying in the same area that the claim for an accidental work injury was filed on, company doctors the employer or their insurance company sends you to will go out of their to blame any injury cause by a work accident on such pre-existing condition.

It is important to understand that the company-selected doctors your employer or their workmen’s compensation insurance send you to for treatment after you get injured working on the job will bend over backwards to help the company either deny you any benefits for your work injury or to reduce them as much as possible. Their doctor will do that by saying in his medical evaluation report on you either that the main causes of your injuries were pre-existing degeneration or injuries or that even if your work accident was the main cause of your injuries, the workman’s compensation judge should deduct and subtract a large part of your disability benefits for the pre-existing degeneration, such as arthritis or fraying of the injured tissue. In Wright’s case the company doctor, Dr. Chabot, claimed that his disc disease in his lower back was due either to Wright’s having been born with the problem (“genetic”) or suffered the disc disease from spinal degeneration which developed over time after he was born. Either way that would entitle Wright to no workers compensation benefits at all for his disc herniations and tears: no back surgery and no disability money payments.

Mr. Wright was injured while pushing a mold that weighed about 1,000 pounds which slammed into a machine, after which he felt sharp lower back and buttock pain. Wright was found to have disc herniations and bulges at different points of his lumbar spine along with proven tears of the disc. Employer’s Dr. Chabot after examining Wright concluded that he had suffered nothing more than a lower back strain and just flatly blamed Wright’s disc tears, herniations, bulges, and back pain shooting into his legs on disc degeneration that he had either been born with or had from long-term disc degeneration over the years which their doctor said had long been present before the accident. Dr. Chabot made this claim even though Wright was only 36 years old at the time of the accident and had never suffered a previous lower back injury or received any prior treatment for his back in his whole life.

The doctor expert Mr. Wright’s lawyer sent him to who examined him found to the contrary that Wright’s herniated torn disc problems were mainly caused by the accident he suffered when the mold he was pushing smashed into the machine in his employer’s shop. The injured worker’s expert was Dr. Poetz. Dr. Poetz did find that Wright had a small bit of spinal degeneration before the accident. However, Poetz found that the disc tears and the overwhelming majority of the employee’s disability was caused by the accident. He also found that all the treatment Wright had received for his back was made necessary by the injury pushing the mold and had not been caused mainly by any pre-existing spinal defects from birth or degeneration. The administrative law judge who heard the case believed employer’s expert Dr. Chabot over employee’s expert Dr. Poetz on the issue of causation and found for the employee.

This case just goes to show that if a worker injured on the job chooses to accept the opinion of the company-selected expert your employer or their workmen’s compensation insurance company sends you to, you will almost always lose and be denied full benefits or maybe even all workers compensation benefits. If you hire an attorney your attorney could send you to a doctor expert for your own side who will likely support your side and oppose the company doctors’ opinions. Even when the company finally sends you out to a doctor for treatment, the doctors they choose for treatment will do everything they can to deny or minimize your injuries.

As in Wright’s case they will usually go out of their way to blame any work injuries on pre-existing degeneration (like arthritis) or previous injuries they can find. A good, experienced hard-fighting workers compensation attorney can gather up all the medical treatment records and send the injured worker out for an evaluation by medical experts who will work in the employee’s interests and enable the injured worker to prove his case to a workmen’s compensation judge. If you get hurt on the job in the course of your work for an employer you need to go consult and then hire a good attorney to fight for and enforce your rights to workers compensation benefits the company denies you. A good lawyer can keep on fighting for you until you win.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center will be glad to represent you on your workman’s compensation claim and fight to get your benefits denied or underpaid by the company. We will go anywhere in the eastern and central Missouri area to fight your case. That includes a lot of cities and counties.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend your rights to workers compensation benefits and demand treatment and money benefits. They can help you fight to enforce your legal rights to benefits. They can fight to keep the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits and to get you the full benefits you deserve. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in either St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Franklin County, St. Charles County, Warren County, Lincoln County, Jefferson County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.

That includes a lot of towns and cities from the City of St. Louis; Kirkwood, Florissant, Hazelwood, Maryland Heights, Jennings, University City, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Fenton, Valley Park, Sunset Hills, Ballwin, Manchester, Eureka, Chesterfield and Sunset Hills in St. Louis County; St. Charles, Wentzville, St. Peters, O’Fallon, Lake St. Louis, Cottleville, Weldon Springs, Foristell, Harvester and Defiance in St. Charles County; Union, Washington, St. Clair, Pacific, Sullivan and Gray Summit in Franklin County; Troy, Moscow Mills, Winfield, Foley, Elsberry, Hawk Point, Old Monroe and Truxton in Lincoln County; and Arnold, Hillsboro, Festus, Pevely, Imperial, Herculaneum, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, High Ridge and House Springs in Jefferson County; as well as many other towns and cities in the counties listed above and all other counties in eastern and central Missouri.

Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

Industrial Commission Is Free To Decide on Its Own Whether Injured Worker Is Entitled To “Multiplicity Factor” Combining Disability Effects of Right and Left Knee Injuries

The case of Kolar v. First Student, Inc. was decided on September 2, 2015 by the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals. The case involved a 400 lbs. bus driver who fell in a grassy area and injured his right knee, breaking his tibia and fibula bones of his right leg. During his medical treatment for his right knee injury Kolar began to have pain in his left leg, which he attributed to putting more weight on that leg to take pressure off his injured right leg.

The company-selected doctor who treated Kolar was of the opinion that Kolar’s left knee problems were not caused by the right knee injury resulting in overuse of the left knee but instead by normal long-term, degenerative arthritis. The injured employee, Mr. Kolar, hired an attorney who filed his claim and sent him to an evaluating doctor who later testified at a workers compensation hearing that his left knee pain was due to his left knee-leg joint (patellofemoral) syndrome and mistracking from all the abnormal weight-bearing required and caused by Kolar’s over-reliance on and overuse of his left knee after his right knee was injured by his fall on the job.

The administrative law judge hearing the case awarded the injured worker Kolar permanent disability for both his right knee from the fall at work and his left knee from over-reliance on the that knee during treatment and recovery of his right knee. In addition the judge found and applied a multiplicity or load factor of some 12.5%, increasing the number of total disability weeks from the right knee and left knee injuries by that number of additional weeks of disability.

The injured worker felt he should have gotten total disability in combination of all his preexisting disabilities from the accident added to his disability from the work accident and appealed the judge’s decision to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission. Employer/Insurer filed their own appeals of the judge’s decision, claiming that a strict (literal) reading of the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law did not permit any judge or the Commission to tack on a load or multiplicity factor to the disability weeks from each affected leg since such a factor is never specifically authorized or mentioned anywhere in that law, but only in case law interpreting Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation Law. They also claimed a lack of medical evidence that the left leg injury following the right leg slip and fall knee injury was ever caused by Kolar’s overuse of the left leg after the injury to his right leg.

As so often happens, both the injured worker’s attorney and the Employer/Insurer’s attorney argued to the Missouri Court of Appeals that each side’s own doctors’ opinions should have been believed and the other side’s doctors’ opinions disbelieved. The Missouri Court of Appeals decided in favor of the injured worker on almost all issues. It agreed with the Labor & Industrial Relations Commission which agreed with the administrative law judge in finding that Mr. Kolar’s right knee injury suffered from his fall at work resulted in overuse of and thereby eventual injury to his left knee, which likewise qualified as a work-related injury in a kind of causal chain reaction.

The appeals court also approved the application of a multiplicity or load factor to increase the overall combined disability of the right knee injury with the resulting left knee injury, even though no such factor was ever mentioned anywhere to be found in the Missouri Workers Compensation Law. The court found it sufficient that such a factor to enhance the overall work disability of opposing knee, wrist, elbow or shoulder injuries on both sides resulting from the same work accident was sufficient to legally justify applying such a factor to enhance and increase total disability.

It ought to be pointed out that while the Missouri Labor & Industrial Relations Commission (the first appeal from a workers’ comp judge’s decision) can change any fact or legal ruling of the judge who heard the case, it will usually go along with the judge’s determinations of the facts and credibility of all witnesses, including medical expert witnesses. Similarly, the Missouri Court of Appeals, as well as the Missouri Supreme Court, will almost always go along with and approve whatever findings of fact and credibility determinations are made by the Commission. Appellate bodies such as the Commission and courts of appeals above it generally go out of their way not to second guess the fact findings and credibility determinations— believing one witness over another— of the Missouri workmens compensation administrative law judge who hears all the witnesses at the original trial of the case.

One good reason a worker injured on the job in a work accident really should consult and hire a lawyer is that even when the company finally sends you out to a doctor for treatment, the doctors they choose for treatment will do everything they can to deny or minimize the worker’s injuries. They will go out of their way to blame any work injuries on pre-existing degeneration (like arthritis) or previous injuries they can find.

A good, experienced hard-fighting workers compensation attorney can gather up all the medical treatment records and send the injured worker out for an evaluation by medical experts who will work in the employee’s interests and enable the injured worker to prove his case to a workers compensation judge. If you get hurt on the job in the course of your work for an employer you need to go consult and then hire a good attorney to fight for your rights to enforce your rights the company denies you. Then your attorney needs to keep fighting for you through many appeals, hopefully to win in the end.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend your rights to workers compensation benefits and demand treatment and money benefits. They can help you fight to enforce your legal rights to benefits. They can fight to keep the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits and can often punish them for arbitrarily refusing to pay or cutting off your benefits for no good reason even though they should have known better.

Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in either St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Warren County, Franklin County, Lincoln County, Jefferson County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

Dismissal of Negligence Lawsuit of Worker Injured on Job against his Supervisors

Many injured workers hurt on the job complain that something their employer themself or employer’s supervisors or managers negligently caused the workers’ injury suffered on the job in the first place. For a long time the Missouri Workers Compensation Law protected employers and their managers and supervisors from getting sued either as a company or personally for negligently causing the accident that resulted in the injuries. Then came along the 2005 amendments to Missouri’s workers’ compensation law, meant to swing the pendulum to employers’ and insurance companies’ advantage.

Well, some smart lawyers used the changes in the law against employers and insurers. The 2005 amendments required strict literal interpretation of Missouri Workers Compensation Law. In the 2010 case of Robinson v. Hooker a worker was hurt on the job, when a co-worker lost his grip on a high pressure hose, which then hit a worker causing blindness in one of her eyes. The injured employee sued not just for Missouri workmens compensation benefits but sued the coworker who lost control of the hose. Since 1983 Missouri’s Workmens Compensation Law had always been interpreted to provide protection against negligence lawsuits not just for employers— the injured workers was limited to suing for workmans compensation benefits— but allowed workers injured on the job to sue coworkers for negligently causing a work accident. However, before they could do this they had to prove “something more” than regular negligence on the supervisors’ or managers’ acts that negligently caused the accident. Ordinary negligence was not enough.

In Robinson the lawyers for the lady who lost an eye argued that their negligence lawsuit against the coworker who negligently caused her injury that a strict literal reading of the Missouri Workers Compensation Law, required ever since the 2005 changes to the law, only would make protection against negligence lawsuits apply to protect employers from getting sued for negligence, but not managers, supervisors or other coworkers. Employers and insurance companies were furious about this decision. Within two years of the Robinson decision they and their lobbyists helped push a new amendment to the Missouri Workers Compensation Law, effectively overturning Robinson v. Hooker and restoring the immunity from negligence lawsuits of individual supervisors and managers they had enjoyed prior to Robinson. This essentially restored the “something more than ordinary negligence” requirement for any lawsuits against individual company officials, supervisors and managers for their negligent acts that resulted in injuries to the worker injured on the job.

The main case I will be discussing here is Peters v. Wady Industries & Terrio. Curt Peters, the employee who was injured on the job while working at Wady Industries, was actually employed by Wady’s subcontractor Tramar. A stack of dowel baskets (dowels are heavy steel-reinforced concrete paver stones) fell over onto Mr. Peters while he was unloading them and injured him badly. Peters blamed it on his supervisor. Since Peters was prevented by Missouri’s workers compensation from suing his employer Tramar for negligence in causing his injuries, his lawyer filed a negligence lawsuit against general contractor Wady Industrial where Tramar had sent him to work and against Terrio, his supervisor.

The negligence claim he filed against his supervisor Terrio had a motion to dismiss filed against it by the company’s lawyers. The circuit judge granted supervisor Terrio a dismissal of Peters’ claim against him based on the protection under Missouri Workers Compensation Law of supervisors from having to face such lawsuits, finding that there was nothing claimed by Peters that was “something more than ordinary negligence.” Peters appealed the dismissal to the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The Missouri Court of Appeals agreed with the circuit judge who dismissed the negligence lawsuit that the lower court judge was correct to dismiss the lawsuit because a 2012 amendment to Missouri Workers Compensation Law restored the immunity of managers and supervisors from lawsuits against them for simple negligence that caused a work injury. The negligence once again had to be “extra” negligence. One judge on the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals, Glenn Norton, dissented from the opinion of the majority of other appellate judges. He would have allowed the negligence lawsuit of the injured worker proceed under Missouri law. Unfortunately, a majority of the Court of Appeals judges disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit.

The main point to remember from this case is that whenever you as a worker suffer an accident and get injured on the job, the only road open to you will be the filing of a workers’ compensation claim. You essentially will be barred from fling a negligence lawsuit against the company or any official of the company, even if it is their negligence in creating a dangerous or unsafe work environment which you can prove caused you to suffer your work injury in the first place. Unless you can prove that company supervisors’ or managers’ more than just ordinary negligence caused your injuries suffered on the job, any such lawsuit you would file against them would soon be thrown out by a judge at the request of the companies defense attorneys soon after you filed it, just as Peters’ suit was dismissed by the St. Charles County circuit judge.

In other words, when you get injured at work on the job, workers compensation is the only form of benefit you will likely be able to fight for. So make sure to call a good lawyer to file and fight your workman’s compensation claim.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can demand your rights to workers compensation benefits for you. Then they can proceed to enforce them. Please call us for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job St. Charles County, in St. Louis County, Lincoln County, Warren County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, or any counties in eastern Missouri within 100 miles of the greater St. Louis area. All our consultations are absolutely free. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workmen’s comp disability benefits we got for you.

Worker Hired in Missouri Injured on Job in Texas Benefits from Statute of Limitations Extended by Receiving Medical Benefits from Employer Who Failed to File Missouri Report of Injury

The case of Daniel Small v. Red Simpson, Inc. was decided by the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals on November 17, 2015. Mr. Small was hired in the state of Missouri to work for his company but injured on the job in Texas working for his company as an electric lineman. In September 1995 Mr. Small received an electric shock to his body while working as a lineman.

This injury resulted in the amputation of his forearm and severe scarring of his abdomen where the electricity exited his body. He filed a Texas workers compensation claim, received medical treatment and temporary off-work compensation lost wage benefits, and settled his claim for permanent disability benefits by the end of October 2003. His employer Red Simpson continued making payments on his 1995 injury for another three years, ending in June 2009, but failed to file any Missouri Report of Injury after it had filed one in Texas.

A worker can file a Missouri workers compensation claim either if he is injured in an accident in the state of Missouri or if he is hired in the state of Missouri but then injured in a state outside of Missouri working for the employer who had originally hired him in Missouri. After Small continued receiving medical benefits for his injury in Texas up through June 2009 he filed a Missouri workmen’s compensation claim nine years after settling his Texas claim.

The employer and its workers comp insurer argued that he had filed his claim too late and that its filing of a report of injury in Texas in the late 1990’s started the Missouri statute of limitations running, meaning that when he filed his Missouri workmen’s compensation claim ten years later it was too late and should be thrown out even though the employer never bothered to file a report of injury in Missouri. The administrative law judge ruled it was filed long after statute of limitations had run and on appeal the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission agreed, upholding the judge’s ruling to dismiss his claim.

Then Mr. Small appealed that ruling to the Missouri Court of Appeals. He argued that his employer’s failure to file a report of injury with the Missouri Division of Workers Compensation meant that the employer’s filing the Texas report of injury did not trigger the Missouri statute of limitation to start running, so that the longer, 3-year statute of limitation applied from the last date a medical benefit was paid (June 2009). In 2005 when the Missouri legislature passed major amendments to the Missouri Workers Compensation Law to make it harder to qualify for benefits it added in a provision that required the law be read strictly (literally the way it had been written).

The Court of Appeals reversed the Industrial Commission’s decision that the employer’s filing of a report of the injury with the state of Texas triggered the Missouri statute of limitations to start running, meaning that when Small filed his Missouri claim 10 years later the filing deadline had long since passed by. The appeals court ruled that his employer’s reporting the accident and injury to Texas did NOT start the statute of limitations filing deadline running.

Thus when Small filed his claim in Missouri in October 2009 only four months after received his last medical payment benefit in June 2009 the time limit to file his Missouri claim had NOT yet passed and run out. So the Missouri Court of Appeals allowed an extension of Small’s time deadline for filing his parallel claim in Missouri and allowed him to pursue his Missouri workmen’s compensation claim to force his old employer Red Simpson and their workman’s compensation insurance company to pay him Missouri workmen’s compensation benefits.

The ironic thing about the court’s ruling is that the Missouri legislature’s change in its workers compensation law to make it harder for workers injured on the job to get workmen’s comp benefits by making judges interpret the law literally ended up allowing the injured worker to file his Missouri claim many years after he was injured in Texas and filed and settled that claim simply because the employee kept on receiving workman’s compensation medical benefits from his employer, who never bothered to report the injury in Missouri.

One good reason a worker injured on the job in a work accident really should consult and hire a lawyer is that even when the company finally sends you out to a doctor for treatment, the doctors they choose for treatment will do everything they can to deny or minimize the worker’s injuries. They will go out of their way to blame any work injuries on pre-existing degeneration (like arthritis) or previous injuries they can find.

A good, experienced hard-fighting workers compensation attorney can gather up all the medical treatment records and send the injured worker out for an evaluation by medical experts who will work in the employee’s interests and enable the injured worker to prove his case to a workmen’s compensation judge. If you get hurt on the job in the course of your work for an employer you need to go consult and then hire a good attorney to fight for your rights to enforce your rights the company denies you.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend your rights to workers compensation benefits and demand treatment and money benefits. They can help you fight to enforce your legal rights to benefits. They can fight to keep the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in either St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Franklin County, St. Charles County, Warren County, Lincoln County, Jefferson County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.

Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

Worker Injured during Lunch Break When Chair Collapsed Underneath Him Can Still be Considered Hurt on Job and be Entitled to Workers Compensation Benefits

The case of Wright v. Missouri Treasurer (Second Injury Fund) was decided by the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals on November 10, 2015.

The worker in this case, David Wright, was working for Roto Rooter and was sitting in a chair in the company lunchroom eating lunch when the chair he was sitting on collapsed underneath him, whereupon he fell down onto the floor and injured his lower back and right leg. In order to qualify for workman’s compensation benefits und Missouri Workers Compensation Law ever since the pro-employer 2005 amendments to that law, an employee has to prove he was injured within the scope and course of his employment. To do so he must show that 1.) his accident was the main (“prevailing”) factor in causing his injury and 2.) his injury did not occur due to a risk or hazard unrelated to his employment that he would have been equally exposed to off the job in his non-employment life. The injured worker, not his employer, has the legal burden to prove all this.

The company argued that Wright could just as easily have fallen in a chair while eating lunch in his non-work life, such as at home or in a restaurant. The court of appeals ruled that the law must focus not so much on the specific job the injured worker was doing at the time of the accident that injured him, but on the source of the risk that injured him and whether the risk of a hazard that caused the accident that injured him was a risk which he as an employee was equally exposed to in his non-work life. The court said that just because Mr. Wright was eating lunch at an unpaid lunch break in the company cafeteria does not mean that his fall when the chair he was sitting on during lunch collapsed underneath him to injure him was not a risk which he was exposed to at the workplace. “His injury occurred because he was at work, not simply while he was work,” the appeals court said.

If the injured employee can show that the injury-causing act that led to the accident that hurt him on the job would not have occurred if he had not been at work, then he should be able to collect workers compensation benefits, including medical treatment, temporary wage loss substitute pay benefits and permanent disability money benefits. The Missouri legislature in its major 2005 revisions to the Law tried its best to limit the circumstances under which an employee can become entitled to workmens compensation benefits. Since the injured worker has to prove both that he was hurt primarily due to the job and due to a risk at the job that he would not have been subjected to off the job, being able to prove this is absolutely essential to the injured worker getting any workers compensation benefits at all. That is why you need a good attorney to fight to prove what you need to prove to get your workmens comp benefits.

Trying to fight your employer and their workers comp insurance to get them to give you medical treatment for your injuries, temporary off-work wage loss benefits, and permanent disability benefit money would be next to impossible without getting a hard-fighting attorney to fight for you against the company, its insurance claim adjuster and the lawyers it will hire to fight you tooth and nail to deny you benefits. This is true of many other types of workers compensation claims as well. You have to fight them in the legal system or you get no treatment benefits and no money benefits.

Employers and their workmen’s comp insurance will deny you all benefits and make you fight for any kind of treatment, lost wages and permanent disability from your accident unless you go out and hire a lawyer to fight for you. You might win or you might lose in the end, but without a hard-fighting attorney you will get no decent benefits for sure. Without a good lawyer fighting at his side to get him the benefits his employer and their workmens compensation insurance denied him, David Wright would have gotten no benefits at all for his on the job injury: no medical treatment, no off-work wage loss benefits, and no permanent disability benefits.

Another reason a worker injured on the job in a work accident really should consult and hire a lawyer is that even when the company finally sends you out to a doctor for treatment, the doctors they choose for treatment will do everything they can to deny or minimize the worker’s injuries. They will go out of their way to blame any work injuries on pre-existing degeneration (like arthritis) or previous injuries they can find. A good, experienced hard-fighting workers compensation attorney can gather up all the medical treatment records and send the injured worker out for an evaluation by medical experts who will work in the employee’s interests and enable the injured worker to prove his case to a workmen’s compensation judge.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend your rights to workers compensation benefits and demand treatment and money benefits. They can help you fight to enforce your legal rights to benefits. They can fight to keep the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in either St. Charles County, Warren County, Lincoln County, Jefferson County, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Franklin County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

State Worker’s Fall on Parking Lot While on Break was Compensable as Work Injury Because Employer Controlled Lot as Part of its Extended Premises

The case of Beem v. Missouri Department of Social Services was decided by the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals on October 13, 2015.

The worker in this case, Gwendolyn Beem, was working for the Missouri state Department of Social Services (DSS) when she was injured by slipping and falling on an ice-covered parking lot while she was crossing the lot during a work break to get to her car. Her intention was to leave the DSS’s premises where she worked to get into her car and go home to let her dog out.

Until the 2005 amendments to Missouri Workers Compensation Law the law an employee’s fall on a parking lot adjacent to or very near to their workplace would have allowed them to get workers’ compensation benefits, including medical treatment, temporary wage loss substitute pay benefits and permanent disability money benefits. Unfortunately that all changed when the Missouri legislature in major 2005 revisions to the Law tried its best to limit the circumstances under which an employee on the way to their car who falls on a parking lot next to or near their workplace can be entitled to workers compensation benefits.

To get benefits that worker now would have to show 1.) that their fall occurred on premises “owned or controlled by the employer” and “so appropriated by the employer or…so situate[d], designed and used by the employer and his employees incidental to their work as to make them, for all practical intents and purposes, a part and parcel of the employer’s premises and operation,” and 2.) that their fall occurred on “that portion of such premises [which] is a part of the customary, expressly or impliedly approved, permitted, usual and acceptable route or means employed by workers to get to and depart from their places of labor and is being used for such purpose at the time of injury.” I am sorry to have to lay all that legalese mumbo-jumbo on you, but that is what your lawyer would have to prove to a workmen’s comp judge in order to get you any benefits (medical treatment, lost pay or permanent disability benefits) at all from your employer and their workmen’s compensation insurance company.

The sad reality is that employers will almost always try to get over and around having to pay your benefits by claiming that the parking lot you fell and injured yourself on either was not controlled and used by them as part of their work or was not on the usual pathway they had ordered or encouraged their employees to use to get across the parking lot to their cars. If you can’t prove them wrong you get no benefits at all. (I could help you prove them wrong in your own case where the company denies you benefits if the facts are on your side!)

The state of Missouri acted just like any other employer would, fought Ms. Beem and denied her getting any workers comp benefits at all, claiming they didn’t control the parking lot, that the lot wasn’t any part of their operations, and that where Ms. Beem slipped, fell and was injured was not on the usual path to the state workers’ cars that they ordered or encouraged DSS workers to use. The state of Missouri made every argument it could and used every trick in the book to deny its own loyal employee any workers comp benefits at all: no medical treatment, no temporary off-work wage loss substitution for its worker to survive on while getting treatment.

The question the workers compensation administrative law judge who heard the case had to answer was whether the Department of Social Services (DSS) premises extended to the parking lot its employee fell on. The judge looked at DSS’s lease on the parking lot. This lease gave DSS a certain number of parking spaces near to the building DSS worked out of and DSS agreed in the lease to “direct and pay for removal of snow and ice from the sidewalks and parking area” plus to provide and pay for general lawn care.

The lease provision making control by and the responsibility of DSS to maintain the parking lot convinced the judge hearing the case to find that DSS exercised enough control over the lot where Ms. Beem fell and the path she took to get there to make her fall on it a work-related injury. The Missouri Labor Commission that heard the state’s appeal of the judge’s decision agreed with the judge, and when the state appealed the decision finding work-related compensability of her fall on the lot to the Missouri Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals agree with the judge and the Commission and found for the employee, Ms. Beem. Even though Beem was on break when she fell they all agreed that had she not been at work and then left work to go to her car when she fell on the lot, she would never have been injured in the first place.

I think you can see from my above description of this recently decided case that whether a worker hurt on the job by falling on a parking lot outside of his workplace gets his injuries covered by his employer’s workers compensation insurance depends totally on whether the legal system which hears his claim for compensation, once his employer denies him benefits, finds his employer sufficiently controlled the lot where he fell and the pathway he took through the lot to get to his car. If that were to happen to you, your employer would make you fight to get any workers compensation benefits.

Trying to fight your employer and their workmens comp insurance to get them to give you medical treatment for your injuries, temporary off-work wage loss benefits, and permanent disability benefit money would be next to impossible without getting  hard-fighting attorney to fight for you against the company, its insurance claim adjuster and the lawyers it will hire to fight you tooth and nail to deny you any benefits.

This is true of many other types of workers compensation claims as well. You have to fight them in the legal system or you get no treatment benefits and no money benefits. Employers and their workmen’s comp insurance will deny you all benefits and make you fight for any kind of treatment, lost wages and permanent disability from your accident unless you go out and hire a lawyer to fight for you. You might win or you might lose in the end, but without a hard-fighting attorney you will get no decent benefits for sure.

Another reason a worker injured on the job in a work accident really should consult and hire a lawyer is that even when the company finally sends you out to a doctor for treatment, the doctors they choose for treatment will do everything they can to deny or minimize the worker’s injuries. They will go out of their way to blame any work injuries on pre-existing degeneration (like arthritis) or previous injuries they can find. A good, experienced hard-fighting workers compensation attorney can gather up all the medical treatment records and send the injured worker out for an evaluation by experts who will work in the employee’s interests and enable the injured worker to prove his case to a workmen’s compensation judge. The legal system often makes you work and fight hard just to get any benefits at all.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend your rights to workers compensation benefits and demand treatment and money benefits. They can help you fight to enforce your legal rights to benefits. They can fight to keep the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, St. Charles County, Warren County, Lincoln County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

Squatting for Prolonged Periods Can Be Considered a Work Hazard Allowing Benefits for Injured Worker

The case of Cotner v. Southern Personnel Management, Inc. was decided by the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission on August 20, 2015.

The worker in this case, Warren Cotner, was a shuttle bus driver for his employer shuttling prospective clients to their time share management building. On the date of the accident he got out of the bus and walked to the front left side of it to determine whether the front air conditioning unit was properly working. He had already told the mechanic about the compressor problem. While squatting over the unit to listen to the compressor to see whether it was grinding or making some type of grinding or malfunctioning noise, Cotner bent forward and squatted, putting one leg behind him as he did so. While he tried to stand back Cotner stepped backwards and his foot stepped on a pebble or otherwise got stuck on the pavement, causing him to stumble backward and fall down to the ground, landing on the pavement.

The worker suffered injuries to his right hip (a hip fracture), neck and right shoulder, was brought to the emergency room, and underwent surgery for repair of the right hip fracture, with a screw being inserted. Mr. Cotner’s medical expert his attorney sent him to examined him and concluded that his slip and fall incident was the main factor causing his injuries, requiring his hip surgery, and leaving him with permanent disability and likely requiring future medical treatment.

However, as usually happens, his employer’s workers compensation insurance sent Mr. Cotner to their own medical expert. After interviewing and examining the worker company-selected Dr. Lennard wrote a medical report concluding that the fall caused Cotner an upper spine (cervical) strain and right shoulder strain, blaming 20% of his strain on pre-existing, pre-accident spinal fusion surgeries. He also found that the employee had injured his right shoulder in the fall, but attributed one-half of all the problems in his shoulder to a pre-existing right shoulder condition.

When a company doctor medical expert blames any part of the permanent disability from a work accident on pre-existing medical condition— whether from a previous accident and injury or pre-existing arthritis degeneration of the same part(s) of the body injured in the work accident— that allows the employer and its workmen’s compensation insurer to subtract that amount of disability from the worker’s workmen’s comp benefit. It means that the employee hurt on the job in a work injury does not get 100% of his disability benefits from the accidental injury.

The administrative law judge who heard the case ruled in favor of employee Cotner, finding that he suffered injuries from his fall accident to his hip, neck and right shoulder not just while he was at work but because he was at work. Getting hurt while on the job is not enough to be entitled to workers compensation benefits, either medical treatment, temporary off-work wage loss benefits, or permanent disability benefits. The judge, after hearing all the testimony from both the worker’s and the company’s experts and the worker’s vocational expert saying he could no longer work, awarded the worker permanent total disability, without subtracting anything for pre-existing disability.

This case is a good example of why a worker injured on the job needs a good lawyer to represent him. Many lower and middle level supervisors refuse to report work-related injuries reported to them by employees under their supervision to higher-ups in the company or delay doing it. Then when the injured worker gets tired of having their work injury ignored and never gets sent to a doctor by the company, when the employee then goes over the heads of his direct supervisors to company top managers or human resources, they will often claim that he failed to report his work accident and injury in time to the company, since the supervisors claimed he never did.

Another reason a worker injured on the job in a work accident really should consult and hire a lawyer is that even when the company finally sends the employee out to a doctor for treatment, the doctors they choose for treatment will do everything they can to deny or minimize the worker’s injuries and will go out of their way to blame any work injuries on pre-existing degeneration (like arthritis) or previous injuries. A good, experienced hard-fighting workers’ compensation attorney can gather up all the medical treatment records and send the injured worker out for an evaluation by experts who will work in the employee’s interests and enable the injured worker to prove his case to a workmen’s compensation judge.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend your rights to workers compensation benefits and demand treatment and money benefits. They can help you fight to enforce your legal rights to benefits. They can fight to keep the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Warren County, Lincoln County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, St. Charles County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

Workers Compensation Judges and Labor Commission Retain Jurisdiction to Award Future Medical Benefits Previously Allowed by Settlement or After Trial

The case of State ex rel. ISP Minerals v. Labor & Industrial Relations Commission was decided by the full Missouri Supreme Court n July 21, 2015. There is a general legal rule that once a Missouri workers compensation administrative law judge or the appeal board/Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission approves a settlement or rules on a contested case decided after a trial, after a certain deadline for filing a appeal has passed the judge or Commission loses all jurisdiction over any aspect of the settlement agreement or legal decision.

An injured worker named Alcorn settled his claim with his employer, ISP Minerals, for a lump sum for permanent partial disability for a pulmonary (lung) condition contracted from exposure to a chemical dust from employer’s mining operation. The settlement agreement, officially approved by an administrative law judge of the Missouri Division of Workers Compensation, contained a provision granting Alcorn future medical treatment if needed for that pulmonary condition “to leave future related pulmonary med. care open” and authorized such medical care for his COPD and obstructed airways through a particular lung doctor in St. Louis.

Some years later the lung doctor whom the settlement authorized to recommend perform such future medical treatment prescribed Alcorn certain inhalers for his work-related lung condition. ISP Minerals filed with the court of appeals for what is called a “writ of prohibition”. Writs of prohibition are a type of court order a party can get when they believe that a judge has acted in excess of his jurisdiction and wants to get a higher appellate court to issue a ruling (writ) “prohibiting” (barring) the judge from ordering it.

ISP Minerals argued to the appeals court that no administrative law judge had the power to order future medical benefits, even if provided for in a judge-approved settlement or judge’s decision after a trial on a case, since the judge’s power to order anything had run out after no appeal to the judge’s approval of the settlement was filed. They argued that if Alcorn did not like it and wanted future medical benefits ordered, he had file a lawsuit to convince a regular circuit court judge to award the future medical, but that the administrative law judge had lost jurisdiction after the settlement to order even future medical treatment ISP had agreed to in the settlement!

Alcorn’s attorney argued to the Court of Appeals that unless an administrative law judge retained jurisdiction (after approval of the settlement or handing down of a decision after a trial) to order an employer and its insurance company to pay the very future medical benefits provided for in the settlement or judge’s decision, how could the injured worker’s rights to such future medical benefits ever be enforced in case the company refused to pay such benefits other than by going through the hassle of filing a court lawsuit.

Not surprisingly, Alcorn’s lawyers won the argument. Basically, the Missouri Supreme Court held that it was not going to allow an employer such as ISP Minerals first to agree to the injured worker’s getting certain future medical benefits, then after approval of the settlement not be allowed to order such agreed to benefits because the judge had lost all jurisdiction over every aspect of the case after approving the settlement.

Other cases had barred the administrative law judge from changing a settlement or issuing a new decision once 30 days had passed from the date the settlement was approved or the judge issued his decision on a contested case. Judges would be barred from changing a settlement or a decision after a certain number of days had passed without an appeal being filed. However, Alcorn’s case was totally different from that because Alcorn was not trying to get a workers compensation to change a settlement or decision after the deadline appeal had passed.

He was trying to get a judge to enforce the injured worker’s established right to future workmen’s compensation benefits that had intentionally been left open to be applied for by the injured worker after the settlement was approved or decision issued. Such benefits were meant to be applied for only after the settlement had been approved. This case just goes to show how far some employer or insurance company’s are willing to go to put up legal roadblocks to injured workers simply trying to enforce their right to benefits.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend and demand your rights to workers compensation benefits. They can fight to legally enforce your rights. They can prevent the company from canceling or underpaying your benefits. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Louis City, Franklin County, St. Charles County, Warren County, Lincoln County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.

Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us). We are here to help you fight for your rightful benefits.

Just Because a Worker Injured on the Job Could Work Despite a Preexisting Medical Condition Did Not Disqualify that Condition from Serving as a Preexisting Disability

The case of Dirks v. Kraft Foods a/k/a Adair Foods was decided by the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals on July 14, 2015.

In this case both the employer and the Missouri State Second Injury Fund appealed the decisions of the Labor and Industrial awarding workers compensation for her knee cartilage injury (torn meniscus) requiring surgery from a work accident to her left knee and granting compensation for total disability for the combination of that left knee injury on the job with a preexisting right knee injury. While on the job the worker had tripped and fallen on an air hose and fell down onto her knees onto a concrete floor below and immediately felt pain in the left knee.

The injured worker’s own orthopedic surgeon claimed that the employee’s fall in the course of her work had caused the left knee meniscus (cartilage) tear, while the employer’s expert claimed the very same cartilage tear was caused by preexisting arthritis in the left knee. The worker’s own surgeon admitted that the worker’s knee had suffered some long-term arthritis since prior to her fall accident, but denied that it was the main cause or any cause of her knee cartilage tear. However, the company’s expert claimed that the worker’s torn left knee meniscus and arthritis were not work-related and thus not compensable (entitled to workmen’s compensation benefits) as a work-related injury. The injured worker hired a lawyer who filed a clam.

The Missouri administrative law judge who held the trial/hearing on the case decided for the employee, deciding that the worker’s fall on the job was the main cause of the meniscus tear. The judge also decided that the work-related left knee cartilage tear combined with the worker’s preexisting arthritic condition and right knee problems to make the employee permanently totally disabled, ordering the Missouri State Second Injury Fund to pay the difference between the workers compensation permanent partial disability benefits the judge made the worker’s employer and insurer responsible for and permanent total disability the judge made the Missouri Second Injury Fund responsible for paying. On appeal to the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) the Commission agreed with and affirmed the administrative law judge’s decision in favor of the injured worker and against the employer/their insurer and the Missouri Second Injury Fund.

Both the employer/insurer and the state Second Injury Fund appealed the decision of the Commission to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District. The Missouri Court of Appeals heard this appeal. It agreed with and affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission that 1.) the employee’s slip and fall accident onto her left knee was the main cause of her left knee meniscal (cartilage) tear and need for meniscus repair surgery, and 2.) the employee’s left knee cartilage tear from the trip and fall on-the-job injury combined with her preexisting right knee arthritis condition to result in permanent total disability. Permanent total disability is always defined as the injured worker’s inability to compete in the open labor market.

Attorneys for the Missouri Second Injury Fund also appealed, arguing that since the injured worker’s preexisting right knee arthritis still allowed the worker to continue performing her job as a laborer at Kraft/Adair Foods, her preexisting arthritis could not have functioned as an obstacle or hindrance to employment, so that the work injury on the job to her left knee meniscus cartilage had no pre-existing disability to combine with in the first place to render her permanently totally disabled.

The Western District Court of Appeals disagreed with both employer/insurer and the State Second Injury Fund. It held that “it is well-established law that a preexisting but non-disabling condition does not bar recovery of compensation if a job-related injury causes the condition to escalate to the level of disability.” In other words, the appellate court decided that that a preexisting medical condition does not have to prevent a worker from doing their job in order to be considered a disability once a work accident brings the preexisting medical condition to the level of disability.

Attorneys for the employer and insurer argued that the Commission was wrong to believe the opinion of the injured worker’s surgeon who operated on her left knee injury from the fall to the concrete floor onto her left knee because employer’s/ insurer’s experts were more credible than the injured worker’s surgeon. The Court of Appeals pointed out that it was supposed to defer to and respect the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission’s credibility determinations as to which witnesses, including expert medical witnesses, to believe and which to disbelieve.

The appeals court also ruled that the Commission’s determination that the injured worker was entitled to future knee replacement surgery to her injured left knee whenever the left knee required it down the line should be deferred to and upheld. Once again, the Court of Appeals said that such determinations of the credibility of medical expert witnesses were to be left up to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, for which it would not normally substitute its own witness credibility determination. The appeals courts will only interfere with and substitute their credibility determinations for those of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission when they find them to be totally against the evidence.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend and demand your rights to workers compensation benefits. They can fight to legally enforce these rights. They can prevent the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, St. Charles County, Warren County, Lincoln County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

The Language Used by Medical Experts in their Reports and the Injured Worker’s Testimony Can Sink His Case or Win His Case

The case of Malam v. Missouri Department of Corrections was decided by the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals on June 24, 2015. It shows that the language used by an injured worker’s expert in finding a particular event or accident on the job caused the injury is all important in the legal system’s determination whether a particular injury was “compensable,” meaning sufficiently work-related to entitle the injured employee to workers compensation benefits.

It is not enough for a worker to just prove he suffered a traumatic accident or strain to become entitled to workers compensation benefits. Missouri law clearly requires the worker to prove that the accident or event that preceded his injury actually was the main (primary) cause in causing the injury. The Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law in effect since the major changes legislature put into effect in 2005 make it clear that an accidental strain that merely triggers or precipitates the worker’s injury is NOT enough to entitle him to benefits.

The Malam case makes that crystal clear. In that case a majority of judges in the appellate court affirmed a Labor and Industrial Relations decision holding the injured worker’s hypertensive (high blood pressure) heart muscle problem (cardiomyopathy) to be at most a precipitating or triggering factor and not the primary causal factor. The employee lost the case in front of the Industrial Commission on appeal, and again on further appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The injured worker was a corrections officer working at a Missouri prison. An inmate he was escorting from one part of the prison to another started acting up and the officer had to restrain and take the inmate down. When the officer did this he felt a shortness of breath and his lungs filling up and began to spit up blood. His lungs suffered bruises and he became unconscious. A lung specialist found he had suffered no external trauma and gave the opinion that Officer Malam’s lung swelling trauma “precipitated” the lung problems but that his heart and lung conditions were preexisting and not mainly caused by the officer’s exertions in his takedown of the prisoner.

The officer’s attorney sent him to their own expert. That expert concluded that the takedown both “precipitated” and was the primary cause of the heart contusion. The Industrial Commission and the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals both decided that at most the exertion of the officer’s takedown of the inmate triggered but was not the main cause of the officer’s already existing heart and lung condition.

The Appeals Court majority pointed to the officer’s admission at the hearing before the workers’ compensation judge that he had testified at a previous deposition that his exertion at the time he took down the inmate was only minimal. This admission by the office himself together with the officer’s own expert’s saying that his exertion in restraining the unruly inmate “precipitated” the heart and lung bruising convinced the court that the corrections officer had not proven his entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. That includes medical treatment and any money benefits.

The officer suffered no permanent disability he could get compensated for so he sought only payment of his medical bills for treating his hear and lung bruising. The state’s coverage of these extensive medical costs required to deal with his heart and lung bruising incident were denied. This case just goes to show how an injured worker’s own testimony (in this case that his exertion trauma was minimal) and his expert’s testimony (that the exertion had “precipitated”/triggered the heart and lung injury) can sink his workers’ compensation claim. This fit right in with a treating heart specialist’s earlier statement that the officer’s takedown of the inmate “precipitated” but was not the main cause of his heart and lung problems. Both the corrections officer and his medical expert should have been a lot more aware of what they said.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend and demand your rights to workmens compensation benefits. They can fight to legally enforce these rights. They can prevent the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits. Please call us for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in St. Louis County, the City of St. Louis, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Lincoln County, Warren County, Franklin County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 100 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).