Some good news for injured employees across the state of Missouri happened last week when the Senate passed a bill that would serve to bolster the state's second injury workers' compensation fund by increasing the amount employers must pay into the fund. The fund will now be replenished by having employers temporarily double the fee they must contribute.
The measure passed overwhelmingly, 32-2, and will now move on to the House. Though supporting the fund is great news, as a whole the law was a bit of a mixed bag for workers as it also included a damage cap. Sadly, should this measure go on to pass the House it will mean that some of the most seriously injured workers will not be able to bring high dollar cases against their employers. The measure also hopes to control expenses of the fund by limiting future coverage only to those workers who are permanently and totally disabled. Employees who suffered only partial disabilities would have to be covered only through traditional workers' compensation insurance policies purchased by employers.
The legislation also contains language which will clarify which occupational diseases will now be dealt with through the workers' compensation system. It would also create a benefit for those workers suffering from certain diseases caused by work-related exposures to toxins. The bill would require the Missouri Second Injury Fund to pay more than $150,000 to those workers who suffered from certain diseases while those workers dealing with the horrors of mesothelioma after a career of working with asbestos would get an enhanced benefit totaling nearly $600,000.
The second injury fund exists as a last line of defense for those workers who have been disabled on the job due to serious workplace injuries. A law passed in 2005 by Republican legislators capped the amount of money employers would pay into the fund; something that has meant the fund's resources became stretched, threatening its long-term survival. At the end of 2012, the fund was perilously close to insolvency, with a remaining balance of only $3.2 million and unpaid obligations of more than $28 million.
Currently there are 30,000 cases in a backlog that must be dealt with. Each case represents an injured worker and his or her family that desperately needs the money to survive. Thousands of workers are struggling as they wait to collect the settlements they counted on to help pay bills following serious workplace injuries. Though the new legislation contains several troubling measures, if it works to stabilize the fund and pay out settlements to the thousands of workers in desperate need of them, then it's a small step in the right direction.
As Saint Louis workers' compensation attorneys we routinely see the devastating aftermath of accidents at the workplace and worry about protections for employees being diminished. If you've been the victim of such an accident and need help navigating confusing legal waters, contact our skilled Missouri injury lawyers today.
Source: "Mo. Senate passes bill to reform Second Injury Fund," by Greta Weiderman, published at BizJournals.com/StLouis.
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