Every day, across America, hundreds of employees get injured on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 5,000 workers died on the job in 2017 — that’s about 14 every day.
When an employee gets injured on the job, or worse, killed, they and their families face significant financial difficulties. Having to pay the cost of medical bills on their own, along with the reality of lost wages because of time off the job, forces many families into bankruptcy.
Fortunately, Kansas and Missouri both participate in the workers’ compensation program. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system that covers medical costs for injured employees and pays them two-thirds of their regular salary if they get injured. For workers who get killed on the job, workers’ compensation means their families could receive financial benefits to help deal with the loss of their loved one.
Under the workers’ compensation system, it doesn’t matter whether your carelessness or your employer’s lack of safety procedures caused the injury. The crux of the issue is that your injury happened during the “scope and course of your employment,” which means you got hurt while doing your job.
In Kansas, state law requires all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance unless their business focuses on certain agricultural practices or their gross annual payroll is less than $20,000 a year.
In Missouri, employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance if they employ five or more people. If they work in the construction business, however, they need to carry the insurance if they have one or more employees.
Knowing Accident Procedures in the Workplace
Most business owners care about the health of their employees and take the necessary precautions to ensure the workplace is safe. Despite all these precautions, workplace injuries still happen. The way employers respond to these injuries can make a world of difference in how long the injured employee may be off the job.
When an employee gets injured, owners or managers should follow specific procedures.
1. Take Care of the Injured Employee Immediately
When an employee gets hurt on the job, making sure they receive the appropriate medical care is the priority. If the employee’s injury is severe, call 911 immediately. If the injury is not an immediate medical emergency, take the employee to a local ER or to a doctor the employer’s medical insurance provider has designated for such treatment.
2. Protect the Scene of the Accident
If the employee has suffered a serious medical injury or dies on the job, the employer or manager needs to secure the scene of the accident as soon as possible. Doing this for investigative reasons is critical. The employer needs to limit access to the area to prevent other accidents or contamination of the scene. The employer or manager also needs to preserve any equipment or materials involved in the injury.
3. Prepare the Necessary Forms and Paperwork
After taking care of the first two items, the employer or manager needs to complete the paperwork about the incident. Employers should send their workers’ compensation insurance carrier a complete report within 24 hours of the incident occurring. If the employer believes the injury will require workers’ compensation insurance, they should also file the claim. If an employer has any concerns about what paperwork they need to complete for both the insurance carrier and for Occupational Safety and Health Agency records, they should contact the insurance carrier who will help them.
4. Create a Program to Help Injured Employees Return to Work
It costs an employer more money to train a new employee than to help an injured employee return to work. While even simple injuries can sometimes result in long medical leave, an employer can help their injured employee resume employment more quickly and efficiently if they establish a return-to-work program.
While some injured employees will be able to come back to their old jobs without any problem, some employees will need to observe medical restrictions and so will need a transitional job. Not only does this help the employees return to work, but it helps employers save money by reducing long-term disability costs.
A transitional job that observes medical restrictions on what an employee can or cannot do does not have to be the same line of work the employee performed previously, or even in the same department. The transitional job also does not need to provide the same number of hours or pay the same as the job the employee held before the injury. When an employee returns to work at a modified position but at a lower wage rate, workers’ compensation should cover two-thirds of the difference between the salary of the pre-injury job and the post-injury job.
5. Pay Attention to Safety
Some employers gain a reputation for not wanting to pay workers’ compensation benefits. One thing they can do to help reduce these costs is to make sure the workplace is safe. Employers should also think ahead about how to deal with injuries if they occur. They should connect with local doctors who can treat their employees, prepare a return-to-work program and constantly preach workplace safety.
Possibilities for Employees Injured Outside of Work
What happens to employees injured outside work? Does that make them ineligible for workers’ compensation? In most cases, if you get injured off the work site while you are performing your job for your employer, you should still be eligible for workers’ compensation.
For instance, if you are a cable installer wiring a home to receive cable TV, and the homeowner’s poorly installed television falls off the wall and injures your foot, you will probably be eligible for workers’ compensation. Or, if you are a salesperson who gets injured in a car accident on your way to a business meeting with a client, your chances of being able to receive workers’ compensation are high.
For legal purposes, the work-related injury definition is any injury you experience while performing an activity for your employer’s benefit, regardless of whether that incident took place while you were working at home, traveling for business or accepting a work call while driving.
There are, however, some situations where workers’ compensation does not cover an employee’s injury.
- If you leave work to go to your favorite deli and get hit by a car while crossing the street, you will not be eligible for workers’ comp. If you’re taking your lunch break on the job site, however, chances are good workers’ compensation will cover you.
- If you are traveling to or from work and get injured as a result of a car accident or some other incident, workers’ compensation will not cover you. If you have clocked out for the day, however, and slip and fall on your employer’s icy parking lot, your injury should still qualify you for workers’ compensation. The moment you leave the lot, however, your employer is not responsible for any injury you may suffer.
- If you get injured at a company event where attendance is voluntary — a company picnic, a company softball game, a gathering at a local bar — you are not eligible for workers’ compensation. If attendance is mandatory, however, or if you sustain an injury while attending a company event at your employer’s office, you will probably be eligible for workers’ compensation.
- If you get injured when you are intoxicated or high on drugs or while you are engaged in horseplay or a fight at work, you will not be eligible for workers’ compensation. If, however, you are under the influence and experience an incident where your intoxication would not have made any difference in whether you suffered an injury, or if you were an innocent bystander to horseplay or a fight, you may still be eligible for benefits.
As you can see, whether you are eligible for benefits often hinges on the unique circumstances surrounding the accident. It makes sense to talk to one of the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at The Law Office of William L. Phalen, who can help you determine if the circumstances surrounding a workplace injury make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
10 of the Most Common Workplace Injury Questions
The law about workers’ compensation can differ slightly from state to state — for instance, the differences mentioned above between Kansas and Missouri concerning how many employees you need to have on staff before your employer needs to take part in workers’ compensation insurance.
If you have specific questions about the workers’ compensation system in your state, talk to an attorney at Phalen Law Firm.
Here are some frequently asked questions about workers’ compensation, regardless of the state.
1. If I Get Injured at Work, Do I Get Paid?
If your injury qualifies you for workers’ compensation, you will have coverage for all medical costs while you are unable to work. If you have a long-term injury, workers’ comp also provides for payments to cover your current and future medical costs.
2. If I Get Hurt at Work, When Should I Tell My Employer?
First, make sure you receive appropriate medical treatment. Once you have taken care of that, notify your employer immediately. Even if you don’t think your problem is severe, the first step in a workplace injury procedure is to report it. Many injuries sometimes take days or a week or more to manifest symptoms.
3. What Happens If I Don’t Notify My Employer Immediately?
The sad truth is, many employers and their insurance companies are unwilling to pay injured workers what they deserve in compensation. So they will look for any reason to deny benefits. If you delay reporting your injury, may insurance companies will use that as a reason to turn down your claim, arguing you could not have been hurt that badly because you didn’t turn in your report right away.
4. Do I Need to File My Claim With the State Government, and Do They Pay for My Workers’ Comp Benefits?
No. Neither Kansas or Missouri pay workers’ comp benefits. Instead, your employer’s insurance company pays these funds. If you feel an insurance company is unfairly denying you from receiving benefits, or not giving you all the benefits you deserve, you can file an appeal with the state, and a workers’ compensation judge will hear your case.
5. If I Get Injured, How Much Do I Receive in Weekly Benefits for My Lost Wages?
In both Kansas and Missouri, you will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage. In Kansas, you can receive up to a maximum of 125 percent of your state’s average weekly wage (SAWW), while in Missouri, it is 105 percent. In Kansas, the SAWW is $921, while in Missouri, it is $947 per week. However, there are limits on how much you can receive in benefits in both states.
6. When Will I Start Receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits?
In Kansas, benefits don’t start until you have been off the job for seven days. Once you have been off the job for 21 consecutive days, you will become eligible to receive payment for the first seven days.
In Missouri, you won’t receive benefits for the first three workdays or less if you are unable to work. If you have been off the job for 14 consecutive days, you will receive payment for the first three days.
7. What Medical Treatments Will I Receive?
You are eligible for any necessary medical treatments to treat and heal the work-related injury. These include surgery or physical therapy, diagnostic services and prescriptions. Your employer and their insurance company can select a doctor for you to see.
8. Can I See Another Doctor If I Am Unhappy With the Insurance Company’s Choice?
In Kansas, yes, you can do this without any application process. However, the insurance company will only cover the first $500. In Missouri, if you want to use a different doctor than the one the company has designated, you must pay for those costs yourself.
9. The Insurance Company Has Offered Me a Settlement. Should I Sign?
No, not without talking to an experienced workers’ comp attorney in The Law Office of William L. Phalen. Insurance carriers will often try to force you to sign a settlement that doesn’t cover future medical costs and whose only goal to save your employer money.
Never sign anything without first talking to an attorney. An attorney also knows how to structure a settlement, so if you are also receiving Social Security disability benefits, accepting a settlement offer will not unduly reduce them.
10. If I Have Further Questions, What Should I Do?
Contact an attorney at Phalen Law Firm and arrange for a free consultation where we will answer all your questions.
What Is the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Disability?
The purpose of workers’ compensation is to provide you with benefits if you get injured on the job. Disability insurance, in contrast, will provide you with benefits if you experience an off-the-job injury. The most significant difference between the two systems is who pays for them.
Your employer pays workers’ compensation through their insurance company. As an employee, you pay for a disability insurance program at work. Both plans will provide you with some monetary assistance while you are off the job.
Workers’ compensation benefits pay about two-thirds of your regular salary while you are off work. Disability payments cover about 50 percent of your salary while you are unable to work because of an illness or injury.
Under workers’ compensation, you receive payments until you are either fully recovered or you have reached maximum medical improvement, which is the point where the doctor believes you have recovered as much as you’re going to recover. You may be eligible for permanent total disability at this point.
Under disability insurance, you may need to pay an additional premium if your injury will be long-term.
Along with disability insurance, you may be eligible to receive government-provided Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI. In some cases, you could be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits and SSDI benefits, although this situation can sometimes lead to reduced workers’ compensation benefits. It is vital to speak to an attorney if you plan to apply for both workers’ compensation and SSDI.
Workplace Injury Statistics
We briefly mentioned above about how often workers get injured on the job. Here are a few more eye-opening statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- A worker gets injured every seven seconds in the United States. That’s 512 an hour, 12,300 a day, 86,500 every week and about 4.5 million every year.
- Employers lose nearly 104 million production days per year due to work-related injuries.
The injuries most commonly keeping workers off the job are:
- Strains, sprains or muscle tears
- Pain or soreness, including repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cuts, punctures or lacerations
Causes of the top three work-related injuries are:
- Overexertion – 34 percent
- Contacting equipment or objects – 25 percent
- Slips and falls – 25 percent
The top five occupations that suffer the most lost workdays as the result of injuries are:
- Service-related jobs, including police, firefighters and other first responders
- Shipping and transportation
- Production and manufacturing
- Maintenance repair and installation
The Statute of Limitations for Workplace Injuries
In Kansas and Missouri, you must report a work-related injury within two years of the incident — otherwise, you are not eligible to receive workers’ compensation.
There are some exceptions to this law. If your employer does not file a Report of Injury with the Division of Workers’ Compensation, you have three years from the date of the injury or three years from the date of the last payment you received because of the injury to file a claim.
When You Have Questions About Workers’ Compensation, Contact Phalen Law Firm
Knowing what rights you have and what benefits you are eligible to receive when you were injured on the job is important. However, when you are injured or sick, it can be a confusing time. Making sure you are filing your claims on time and receiving your workers’ comp benefits on top of trying to recover from an injury or illness can be a harrowing experience. If you get injured on the job, it makes sense to contact an attorney with experience in workers’ compensation issues in The Law Office of William L. Phalen.
Call us at 620-235-1806 or toll-free at 800-235-1807. You can also visit our contact us page, where you can leave us details about your situation and your contact information, and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.