Injured Worker Does Not Have To Be Actively Working at Moment When Injured on Job So Long as Accident Due To a “Hazard Present in the Workplace”

Workers injured on the job have all their rights to workers compensation benefits set out in the Missouri Workers Compensation Law. In 2005 the Missouri state legislature passed a major set of amendments deliberately attempting to make it a lot harder for workers hurt on the job to qualify for workers compensation benefits. Insurance companies hire skilled lawyers to fight all claims for such benefits based on every legal defense and obstacle they can think up to throw in as a roadblock to your getting workmen’s compensation. This includes benefits for medical treatment for the injury, temporary off-work (temporary total) benefits, and permanent disability benefits.

A good example of this tendency of employers and their insurers to use the 2005 changes in the law to deny and fight tooth and nail every single claim for workers compensation benefits by workers injured on the job is Section 287.020.3(2)(b) of the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law. This provision of the law allows workers compensation benefits only for injuries that “arise out of and in the course of the employment,” and “only if the accident that caused the injury does not come from a hazard or risk unrelated to the employment to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of and unrelated to the employment in normal nonemployment life.” As a practical matter workers compensation defense attorneys for insurance companies will raise and bring up any petty little legal excuse (defense) that would make the injury noncompensable as a work injury as a legal excuse to deny your whole claim: no medical treatment, no temporary off-work benefits.

A case called Wright v. Roto Rooter Services was decided by the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission on April 20, 2015 on appeal from the decision of an administrative law judge who conducted the trial of the case. The claim against the employer had been settled. Then Mr. Wright pursued his remaining claim against the Missouri Second Injury Fund. The worker was on his lunch break in the company lunch room when the chair he was sitting on while eating lunch collapsed, seriously injuring the worker’s back.

The injured employee got a lawyer who filed a workers’ compensation against the employer and settled it. That left open a claim against the Missouri’s Second Injury Fund. The Fund’s attorneys denied the claim arguing that the main cause of the accident had come from a risk unrelated to the worker’s employment because the worker was fat/obese. They claimed that the worker’s being fat would have made him be equally exposed to the hazard of having any chair he sat in collapse under off the job. The problem was that chair that collapsed under the guy was in his employer’s lunch room, not off the job site.

The administrative law judge decided against the Missouri Second Injury Fund in favor of the employee. Then the Missouri Attorney General’s office on behalf of the Fund appealed that finding for the injured worker to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission claiming that the worker whose chair in the company lunch room collapsed under him could just as easily have had a chair fall under him off work in his normal nonemployment life because he was fat and that his being fat was the main/primary cause of the accident and injury.

The Commission upheld the decision of the administrative law judge and ruled in favor of the worker. It ruled that the worker did not have to have been actively working at that time of the accident that injured him when the chair collapsed under him in order to have been injured in the scope and course of his employment. It said: “the [Missouri] legislature clearly contemplated and accepted compensability of injuries sustained as a result of work-related risks even though employee was not at the time engaged in the performance of job duties (e.g. going to and coming from employer’s lunchroom or bathroom)….[workers’] compensation is not limited to workers injured while actively engaged in their duties (i.e. ‘working’).” The broken chair was a hazard present in the employee’s workplace, which included the employer’s lunch room, and that was enough to make the injury compensable as work-related under Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law.

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).

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