If you are hurt at work in Missouri, you are tossed into the Workers’ Compensation system. An insurance adjuster for your employer chooses your doctors, approves or disapproves your treatment, and pays your benefits to you while you are off work recovering. This system, covering Missouri workers since 1926, has been a trade off- the employee doesn’t have to prove that the employer did anything wrong to get benefits, but the employee never gets to recover the “full” amount of his or her injury. The system traditionally overpays small injuries with little resulting disability, but underpays (significantly so) large, debilitating injuries.
During the reign of Baby Faced Blunt, Missouri’s last governor, the business interests of the state decided to tweak the system. The burden of winning a case became heavier on the employee than ever before. And some injuries were excluded from coverage, leaving the injured employee out in the cold without a remedy.<
Until yesterday, that is. The Supreme Court of Missouri ruled, in the case of Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans vs. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (opinion here) that employees injured at work who were excluded from Workers’ Compensation coverage could file their lawsuit in circuit court. Jury verdicts are typically more fair than workers’ compensation payments, as they hear individual facts and circumstances, rather than relying on a chart for compensation. Of course, civil lawsuits also require a finding of fault by the employer, but forcing someone to work in an unsafe environment may be enough to satisfy that finding.