While workers’ compensation coverage is intended to provide injured workers with the benefits they need to make up for lost wages and pay medical expenses, it is not always easy to get them. While the law mandates that employers meet specific insurance requirements, the employer and the insurance company will often try to minimize their costs at the expense of the injured worker.
The workplace injury attorneys at Edelman & Thompson are committed to helping injured workers seek the benefits they deserve. We fight to make sure that employers and their insurers remain honest and pay workers what they deserve when they are hurt on the job.
We have recovered more than $500 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf our clients. We have helped over 7,500 injured workers in both Kansas and Missouri. We have recovered settlements or awards for our clients in well over 99 percent of those cases.
Our firm has five office locations in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Call us or contact us online now to set up a free consultation with an experienced work injury lawyer.
Why Do You Need an Attorney to Help With a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Workers’ compensation claims may seem simple to file, but proving the serious nature of your injury and securing full benefits can be more challenging than expected. You need a lawyer who knows what kind of evidence to present so you can be appropriately compensated for your on-the-job accident.
Edelman & Thompson has a team of attorneys with significant experience in workplace injury cases:
- Ron Edelman has been honored as a Top 100 workers’ compensation lawyer by the Workplace Injury Litigation Group, the foremost national organization of workers’ compensation lawyers.
- Carl Mueller was a State of Missouri Workers’ Compensation judge for two decades before joining Edelman & Thompson.
- Steffanie Stracke spent more than 10 years as a legal adviser for the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation, and has successfully handled well over a thousand work injury cases in both Kansas and Missouri.
- Mike Downing has over three decades of experience handling workers’ compensation claims in Kansas and Missouri. Mike has recovered settlements or awards for over 99% of his clients as have all Edelman & Thompson work injury lawyers.
- Keith Yarwood is a former employee of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Over the last 20 years at Edelman & Thompson, he has obtained workers’ compensation benefits for over a thousand injured workers in Kansas and Missouri.
The work injury attorneys at Edelman & Thompson are proud of the fact that over the last 5 years we have won more court awards in the Kansas City, Missouri office of the Division of Workers’ Compensation than any other law firm. This is verified by the Department of Labor for the years 2014 through 2019.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
When you are hurt in an accident on the job in Kansas or Missouri, you should report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. Kansas state law generally requires employees to give notice of an injury or repetitive trauma to employers within 20 days of the injury or, for repetitive trauma claims, the date of diagnosis. The general rule in Missouri is 30 days. Although both states recognize exceptions in certain circumstances, it is important for you to report the injury as soon as you have reason to believe that an accident or your repetitive work duties are causing your symptoms.
The procedure for filing a claim in Missouri is through a “Claim for Compensation.” In Kansas the form generally used is called an “Application for Benefits.”
Types of Compensation Available in a Workers’ Compensation Case
Although each state law varies somewhat, an injured employee in both Kansas and Missouri may recover four types of benefits: (1) medical treatment to cure and relieve the effects of their injuries; (2) pay for time lost from work, either due to the fact that the treating doctor places you off work completely or places you under restrictions that the employer cannot accommodate; (3) a monetary award for any permanent disability or impairment; and (4) an award of future medical treatment which may be required as a result of the injury. The distinctions between the two states are set forth below.
Kansas law requires that an employer and its insurance carrier pay for all of your medical treatment. However, the injured employee is required to see the physicians directed and authorized by the employer and the insurance carrier. There is one exception to this rule. Under Kansas law, an injured employee has up to $500 in what is called “unauthorized medical” which he or she may use to seek out treatment on their own and be reimbursed by the employer or its insurance carrier.
Under Kansas law an employee is also entitled to receive pay for time off work. This can occur where the treating physician places the employee off work completely, or where the physician places the employee on restrictions which the employer cannot accommodate. Under Kansas law, the weekly benefit is based on the average of the employee’s gross weekly wages (before taxes) for the 26 weeks preceding the week of the injury. However, this is limited by the statutory maximum. The maximum rate changes each year. For the period July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 the weekly benefit maximum is $645. Therefore, if an employee has a gross average weekly wage of $600, he is paid $400 per week in benefits for time off. If he makes $1,500 per week, he is limited to the maximum of $645.
Once the employee has been released from treatment, he or she may also be entitled to an award of what is referred to as permanent impairment. This is generally a lump sum award based on the fact that the employee is not back to 100% of their prior condition, and is impaired in terms of their activities both at work and in their personal life. The permanency award is based on a formula as follows: the percentage of impairment x the number of weeks the injury represents x 2/3 of the average weekly wage up to the maximum rate.
Each body part is entitled to a different number of weeks. For example, a hand injury is worth 150 weeks. A knee injury is worth 200 weeks. A neck or back injury is worth 415 weeks. The employer will generally ask the treating physician for a rating of impairment. These ratings tend to be low (or conservative). In order to obtain fair compensation for our clients, Edelman & Thompson will send you out for a second opinion rating from a neutral doctor not affiliated with the employer or insurance carrier. These ratings are generally significantly higher than the company doctor’s ratings and provide us with the evidence needed to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your injury.
In addition to requesting an alternative rating from the physician who we select to do a second opinion, we will always ask that doctor if future medical will be required. If so, we want to make sure that these rights are included in any settlement or award.
The state of Kansas does have caps on monetary benefits in workers’ compensation cases. Under Kansas law, the maximum monetary benefits for permanent total disability is $155,000, including the amount paid in temporary total disability for time off work during the course of treatment. For what is called work disability (a situation where you are unable to return to your old job and unable to earn at least 90% of your prior wages in a new job), the maximum is $130,000 including the temporary total disability benefits. For a functional impairment case, the maximum is $75,000 (excluding the temporary benefits paid).
In cases involving death, the employer and its insurance carrier may be liable for a lump sum payment to authorized heirs as well as for funeral expenses and medical bills incurred prior to death.
Under Missouri law, the employer and its insurance carrier is obligated to pay for the employee’s medical treatment for an injury which occurs on the job. However, the employee is required to treat with the physicians selected and authorized by the employer and its insurer. Any bills which the employee incurs on their own will be their responsibility to pay. Sometimes injured workers believe that they can pursue treatment through their health insurance. Unfortunately, virtually every health insurance policy excludes work injuries from their coverage. As a result, an employee who believes that their health insurance company will pay bills related to a work injury will instead have to pay the bills themselves out of their own pocket.
As in Kansas, an injured worker is entitled to receive two-thirds of their normal gross average weekly wage for time off work. The employee is entitled to these benefits whether the doctor for the insurance carrier takes the employee off work completely, or places the employee on work restrictions which the employer cannot accommodate. An employee is not entitled to these benefits for the first 3 days lost from work unless the employee is off work for 14 days or more. The maximum rate for these benefits changes each year.
In addition to medical treatment and pay for time off, the employee is also entitled to monetary compensation for permanent disability. This is often in the form of a lump sum payment where the employee is able to return to work and therefore only permanently partially disabled. In a case where the employee is unable to return to any type of gainful employment, the employee may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits. These are weekly payments at the same level as the employee would have been paid for their time off work. Once the employee has been released from the insurance company’s physicians, we will schedule you for a second opinion evaluation with one of our chosen physicians. This provides us with a second opinion not only with regard to the level of disability you have sustained, but also whether or not you will require any further medical treatment which the insurance company’s doctors have failed to address. By obtaining our own second opinion report, we are able to maximize the monetary compensation for your claim and ensure that you are protected with respect to your future medical rights.
How Long Do You Have to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
As stated above, injuries should be reported to the employer as soon as you have reason to believe that you have sustained an on-the-job injury or injury from repetitive work activities. This will hopefully lead the employer and its insurance carrier to provide you with medical treatment for your injuries as well as pay for any time lost from work.
Once an employee has been released from treatment, they generally have 2 years in which to file paperwork entitling them to monetary compensation for permanent impairment or disability. In Missouri this is accomplished through a “Claim for Compensation.” In Kansas this is accomplished through an “Application for Benefits.” We fill these forms out for the employee and make sure that they are filed in a timely fashion with the appropriate division of workers’ compensation.
Missouri does have one exception to the 2-year rule. If the employer fails to file a report of injury with the state, then the employee has 3 years to file a claim.
As with any statute of limitations, there can be exceptions to these general rules. As a result, we recommend contacting us immediately after your injury to ensure that your case is handled properly. Since we do not receive a fee until there is a final settlement on your case, you have the benefit of our free advice and services during the course of your medical treatment and your receipt of pay for time off work. During this period of time we can help you make sure that the insurance company is in fact providing you with all of the medical treatment that you require, and paying you for your time off work in a timely fashion.
Common Types of Workplace Injuries
People can be involved in many different kinds of workplace accidents in Kansas and Missouri. Some of the most common types of accidents include:
- Forklift accidents
- Accidents resulting from improper training of employees
- Backhoe accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Crane accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Scaffolding collapses
- Defective equipment accidents
- Construction accidents
- Accidents resulting from a failure to provide fall protection
- Exposure to toxic substances
These and other types of workplace accidents can cause many kinds of injuries. Some employees can recover quickly and return to work, but many others face far longer journeys toward recovery.
Some of the most frequent injuries our firm sees include:
- Head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Repetitive use injuries to hands and arms (carpal tunnel syndrome, for example)
- Back injuries (herniated discs, bulging discs, and strains/sprains)
- Neck injuries (herniated discs, bulging discs, and strains/sprains)
- Injured joints, such as knees and shoulders
- Shoulder tears, such as rotator cuff tears
- Wrist and elbow nerve injuries
- Eye injuries
- Amputation injuries
- Knee tears and strain/sprains
Negligence in Workers’ Compensation
While employers are primarily responsible through the workers’ compensation system, it may be possible that other individuals or entities also share liability for certain types of incidents. If that’s the case, an injured worker may be able to bring a third-party lawsuit against a non-employer whose negligence contributed to the accident. Under the law in both Missouri and Kansas, an employee is precluded from bringing a claim for negligence against their employer. Under the laws in both states, the workers’ compensation benefits are considered to be the employee’s exclusive remedy. In very rare cases, an employee may bring a claim against a co-employee but this usually requires a showing of greater than ordinary negligence.
How Do I Pay for the Attorney Services?
Edelman & Thompson work on a contingency fee basis on workers’ compensation cases. This means that we do not receive a fee until we win your case. We will advance all expenses necessary to pursue your claim, including the cost of sending you out for a second opinion with one of our outside consulting physicians. The fee in workers’ compensation cases is 25% of the recovery plus reimbursement to us for the out-of-pocket expenses.
We do not charge any fee on the weekly benefits for time off work unless the insurance company denies that you are entitled to these benefits. There is also no charge in making sure that you receive the medical treatment that you deserve, including your right to future medical. If a case is settled with your future medical rights being left open, we will continue to pursue those rights even where we have already received our fee on the monetary settlement portion of the claim.
Contact Kansas City Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
Workers’ compensation is a system that is intended to provide benefits to injured employees without undue hassle. Unfortunately, many insurance companies refuse to provide workers the full benefits they are entitled to under the workers’ compensation system. Many injured workers will have the legitimacy of their injuries questioned, while others will encounter difficulties in obtaining proper medical treatment and/or proper pay for time lost from work. Even in those cases where the insurance company provides for the employee’s medical treatment and pay for time off work, there will always be a battle with the insurance company over the amount of money which should be paid for the injury once the employee is released from the company doctor’s care. In many cases there will also be a battle over whether or not the employee will require future medical treatment as a result of the injury.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or death on the job in Kansas or Missouri, it is important to make sure that you receive all of the workers’ compensation benefits to which you are entitled. Our lawyers are ready to help. We have a proven track record of success and an experienced staff of work injury attorneys, virtually all of whom have at least 20 years of experience handling these types of cases.
Our firm has five area locations throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. The consultation is free. We can meet with you at any one of our offices, or we can come to you.