In Missouri, when the Workers’ Compensation Act was implemented, employees were able to obtain medical treatment and lost time wages following the work injury without having to sue their employer in circuit court. However, the final settlement does not include compensation for issues such as pain and suffering. Instead, settlements are based on an artificially created chart relating to disability to the injured body part. This chart identifies the particular body part’s total value. The body part’s value was identified in the following chart:
To better explain this methodology, below are a few examples of real settlements.
If an injured worker sustained a complete amputation to their hand, the employee would be entitled to 175 weeks of compensation as that is the statutory value of the hand as noted in the chart. This statutory number of weeks is multiplied by 66 2/3% of the employee’s average weekly wage to come up with the final settlement or trial value. However, the 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage has a statutory cap of 55% of the State’s Average Weekly wage updated annually. This amount can be obtained at the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation website to determine the cap amount for your date of accident.
Thankfully, full amputations of limbs are rare. However, traumatic injuries to the hand are more common and frequently lead to medical treatment or surgeries to the hand. In such scenarios, once treatment is concluded, the parties can agree to settle for a percentage of disability to that hand. In such scenarios, if the parties agree to settle for 10% disability of the hand, the employee would receive 17.5 weeks of compensation which would be multiplied by 66 2/3% of their average weekly wage. (175 x 10% = 17.5 x 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage)
If the injury occurs to a body part not assigned a specific number of weeks, the initial starting point begins at the 400 week level. These are referred to as body as a whole injuries. Such injuries can include spinal injuries, head traumas and hernias. Regardless, the calculation remains the same. (400 x % of disability x 66 2/3% of the Average Weekly Wage).
In determining the extent of disability, the courts look at factors such as subjective ongoing symptoms; whether surgery was required; loss of range of motion or strength; and permanent work restrictions. Additionally, the courts will consider other issues such as the injured worker’s age, occupation, and future earning capacity.
Calculations for permanent partial disability assume that the injured worker was able to return to work. If the employee is unable to return to work, the calculations could lead to discussions of permanent total disability. Each settlement for permanent partial disability is determined on a case-by-case basis. Prior to 2006, the Missouri Division of Worker’s Compensation had Legal Advisors to assist an unrepresented injured worker to make certain that the settlement was fair. As of 2006, all of the Legal Advisors were terminated and the Judges were specifically advised to not provide legal advice to unrepresented injured workers. As a result, unrepresented injured workers are required to negotiate directly with an insurance adjuster or attorney assigned to represent the insurance company.
Although there are ranges of settlement based upon the injury, the final resolution can vary dramatically based on the outcome of medical treatment as well as the venue to which the case is assigned. If there are questions regarding whether the settlement offer is fair, consult a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney who can assist you in determining the best resolution for you.