FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR WORKER’S COMPENSATION
We take on a wide variety of Worker’s Compensation cases. Clients ask us some common questions. We answer some of the frequently asked questions for worker’s compensation here, and translate some “legalese” for you. We hope the answers help guide you in the right direction.
Do I need a lawyer?
Yes, you need a lawyer. I know, I am biased, but you still need a lawyer. Your employer has one that knows all the rules. You wouldn’t gamble at cards without knowing the rules, would you?
The employer’s lawyer makes offers to settle your claim. Do you know what your claim is worth? The insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little as possible. That’s the bottom line. We are likely get you more money even after payment of attorney fees.
How do I pay a lawyer?
We receive 25% of your settlement amount. I pay for initial expenses on your behalf, such as for your medical records and for a medical rating, if needed. You pay me back out of your portion of the settlement. If I don’t get you anything, you don’t owe me anything. I won’t take your case unless I believe I can help you do better.
Can I be fired for filing a Worker’s Compensation claim?
Your employer may fire you for many reasons. However, Missouri Law states:
“No employer or agent shall discharge or in any way discriminate against any employee for exercising any of his rights under this chapter. Any employee who has been discharged or discriminated against shall have a civil action for damages against his employer.” Revised Statutes of Missouri, Chapter 287.780.
Consequently you cannot be lawfully fired for filing a Worker’s Compensation claim.
What if the accident at work was my fault?
You got stuck on the assembly line conveyor belt and tore up your shoulder. Work injuries are strikingly different than a car accident. If you are in a car accident, you must prove that the other driver caused the accident. In worker’s compensation, you don’t have to prove whose fault it was that you were injured.
The trade-off is that you cannot be awarded additional money for “pain and suffering” in worker’s compensation, like you can in a car accident.
What benefits do I receive?
Injured workers receive benefits under the law. Here are 2 big ones:
- Medical Care.When you’re hurt at work, your employer must provide medical care for your injury. The employer chooses the doctor. You may choose your own doctor, but then you pay for it. Health insurance will likely not pay for work-related injuries.
- Permanent Partial Disability. Eventually your body will recover to a certain extent. Your doctor will release you when you have reached “maximum medical improvement”. Lets call it MMI. Worker’s compensation will pay you a lump sum of money, so long as your MMI is less than 100%. That is, if you haven’t healed up to where your were before the injury.
Usually a doctor will examine you after you have reached MMI and rate your “permanent partial disability”, or PPD. For example, if you are healed to 90% of your prior condition at MMI, then you have a 10% PPD.
Chapter 287 of Missouri law, assigns parts of the body a number of weeks. For example, you injure your back. A back is assigned 400 weeks. In my example, you have a 10% PPD of the back . You receive 40 weeks of compensation, because 10% of 400 weeks is 40 weeks. You get 40 weeks of your work comp “rate“.
How much is my rate?
I know – this gets pretty confusing, so lets make it simpler. Here’s how we translate your weekly rate into dollars.
Your weekly work comp rate is determined by averaging your paychecks for the 13 weeks before your injury. We call that your “average weekly wage”, or AWW for short. This is not your take home pay, its before withholding. Once your AAW is determined, we use 2/3 of it.
For example, let’s say you work 40 hours per week at $7.50/hour. (I know minimum wage is $7.70/hour, but this example make the math easier.)Your AWW is $300.00. Two thirds of $300 is $200.00, so your rate is $200.00. In the example above, you are receiving 40 weeks of compensation. 40 weeks X $200.00 = $8,000.00. Attorney fees are 25% which is $2,000.00, leaving you $6,000.00 (minus and any expenses, such as copies of medical records and hiring an expert). I pay taxes on my $2,000.00 because it is income, but you do not pay taxes on your $6,000.00. Yours is not income, it is money to help fix your injuries.
Important Rate Note: There is a maximum PPD rate, which changes slightly around June 30 of each year. As of July 1, 2016, that rate is $$477.33. So, if 2/3 of your AWW is more than the maximum rate of $$477.33, your rate is still $477.33. Even is you make millions playing baseball for the Cardinals, your rate will be $477.33.
How long will this process take?
The length of the process is first affected by how fast your body heals to MMI. Once you are there, we can evaluate your claim and start settlement talks. I will be with you for each appearance you make at the Division of Workers’ Compensation, anywhere in this state.
Where does Liberman Law Firm take cases?
Although my office is in St. Louis, I handle worker’s comp cases all over Missouri, from St. Joseph to Joplin. From Ironton to Rolla to Springfield. From Cape Girardeau to Hannibal. You do not have to come to my office ever, but you are welcome to.