FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are a few questions that I often receive from people who have been injured on their job. If you work outside the State of Missouri, the laws may be different.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained within this frequently asked questions section and other areas of the website is for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice. Please understand that no attorney-client relationship is created after visiting this site. If you need more information or have other questions not addressed, please contact Louise Ryterski at (636) 477-6400. Furthermore, understand that communications over the internet through this site or by email may not be deemed confidential.
What is workers' compensation?
Workers’ compensation benefits are provided through your employer if you are injured or ill due to your job. The insurance coverage provided is intended to pay for reasonable medical costs, treatment related to the injury, pay two-thirds of your average weekly wage (not to exceed state maximum) when you are off work (after “waiting period”), provide compensation for ongoing, permanent disability and pay for death benefits to dependents of a worker who died from a work-related incident.
What should I do after I have been injured?
Immediately report the injury to your supervisor. Do not delay in reporting the injury, even if you think it is minor. Your right to compensation may be affected if you do not report the injury in a timely fashion.
Ask for medical attention for the injury. Even if you think it is minor, it is best to get yourself checked out and to make a record of the injury with your doctor’s office.
Why can't I see my own doctor?
The Missouri law requires you to see a “authorized” treating physician. Your employer has the right to select the physician you see. If you choose to see your own physician, you will be responsible for the costs.
Also, once you have begun treating, keep all appointments. Your right to benefits may be terminated by your failure to show up at all scheduled appointments.
I am receiving bills for treatment related to the work injury. What should I do?
If your employer or someone related to the employer’s insurance company, sent you to the facility, and it is a work-related injury or condition, immediately notify your employer and/or their representative. Provide your employer and/or their representative with a copy of the bill. Keep the original bill for your records.
Also, it is helpful to make a short written note to your employer and/or their representative regarding the unpaid bill. In the note, mention the date, person, amount of the bill, facility and date of service. Attach the unpaid bill to the note and keep a copy of everything for your records.
My doctor is keeping me off work because of my injury and shouldn’t I be receiving my paycheck?
Under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation law, you are entitled to receive two-thirds (2/3) of your average weekly wage, up to the state maximum. You will not receive your full paycheck. Average weekly wage is calculated by taking the average of 13 weeks of pay that pre-dated the date of the injury. Your temporary total disability payment (“TTD”) is two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
It is also important to remember that the State sets a maximum average weekly wage. Therefore, if you are above the state maximum, you will receive two-thirds of the state maximum, not two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
My doctor says I can go back to work. I tried, but I can’t do it. What should I do?
You must try to return to your job. If you are unable to perform the activities required, you must notify your employer. Tell your employer that you have attempted to perform your duties but you are unable to do so and the reasons why. Tell your employer that you need additional medical treatment because you are unable to work in your present condition.
My employer has fired me after this work injury. Am I still entitled to benefits?
Yes. Your employer and/or its insurance company is responsible for providing you with medical attention to cure and relieve the effects of the work-related injury. If you have started treatment, continue to treat with the doctors that have been authorized to see you. If you have not yet started with medical treatment, but have notified your employer, continue to request medical attention.
Furthermore, if the authorized doctor finds that you are unable to work as a result of the work-related injury, you should be paid temporary total disability benefits until you are better. So, whether or not you are working for the same employer, you are entitled to your TTD benefits based upon the wages you were earning on the date of the accident.
Do I really need a lawyer, I don't want my employer to get mad?
I don’t want my employer to get mad. You do not necessarily need a lawyer to assist you with your workers’ compensation claim. However, a lot of the frustration you may be experiencing might be avoided if you obtain legal representation. For example, if you are having trouble getting the insurance company to issue your benefit checks or having trouble seeing the doctor, an experienced lawyer can step in to fight for your rights. Once you hire a lawyer, the lawyer takes over all of the phone calls and many of the court appearances. All you need to do is continue to treat with your doctor and return to work after you are advised to do so.
At the end of the case, you are entitled to a lump sum cash settlement for your work injury if it leaves you with permanent disability. The lawyer does not collect a fee unless you collect a lump sum settlement. The attorney fee is 25% of the settlement. You may also be responsible for costs associated with your case.
Another good reason to obtain the services of a competent attorney is to assist you in resolving your settlement for permanent disability. The only persons able to determine whether or not the offer from the insurance company is a fair number are persons experienced with the workers’ compensation system. You are probably experienced in your job. Ms. Ryterski is experienced in workers’ compensation. Even though you will pay a 25% contingent attorney fee, the advice, in most instances, can certainly be worth the fee.
If I settle my case, what do I do if I need additional treatment?
Once you settle your case and no future medical treatment is agreed to, you cannot ask your employer/insurance company for additional medical care for that injury. However, if you experience a new injury to that same body part, you can file another claim. The process starts all over. Simply because you close out your case for one injury does not necessarily preclude you from filing again for another injury or condition to the same part of the body.