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Many of us are familiar with the term “workers compensation” or “workers comp”, but most are unaware of what it actually is and how it works. A common misconception is that workers compensation only applies to labor-intensive jobs such as construction workers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians, etc. Workers compensation can actually apply to any type of profession, even a desk job where you only leave your cubicle for a cup of coffee or to use the bathroom.
Unfortunately, disaster can strike at even the tamest of jobs, and when it does, it’s important to know your rights as an employee. The first step is to make sure that you know exactly what workers compensation is and how it works.
What is Workers Compensation?
According to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, workers compensation is a state-mandated insurance policy that provides medical benefits and wage replacement for employees who become ill or injured on the job. In the state of Missouri, any employer with five or more employees and any employer in the construction industry with one or more employees is required to provide coverage.
Employer: You must obtain either a workers compensation policy or permission from the Division of Workers Compensation (DWC) to self-insure.
Employee: Make sure that your employer has a workers compensation policy. Click here to find your employer and their policy to make sure they’ve obtained proper coverage.
How Does it Work?
The most complicated part of insurance is figuring out what to do in the case of an emergency. We’ll simplify the process by breaking it down into steps, but before we do so. It’s important to understand what qualifies as a covered injury.
A covered injury must occur at your place of employment during the time you’re employed. All injuries and occupational diseases must meet the right standards. This means that “the prevailing factor” for the resulting disease or disability must be work-related. Injuries that occur outside of work or on your way to work, are not covered. Injuries in which the cause is unknown, such as idiopathic injuries*, are not covered.
* An idiopathic injury is an injury occurring from an unknown cause or brought on by a purely personal condition.
What do I do If I Become Injured on the Job?
Step 1: Report Your Injury
You must report your injury to your employer right away. If you fail to report your injury within 30 days of the accident or 30 days after the occupational illness is diagnosed, your ability to receive proper benefits may be jeopardized. Your employer should have an Accident or Injury Report Form. If they don’t, make sure you submit a written document to your employer which includes the nature of the injury, when/where the accident occurred, your name, and your address. You’ll want to keep a copy for yourself and prove that your employer received the document. You can also access the proper form here.
Step 2: Seek Medical Treatment
Once the injury is properly filed, you’ll want to seek medical treatment immediately. Before you schedule an appointment with your primary physician, you’ll first want to alert your employer that you’re seeking medical attention. Under Missouri law, your employer has the right to select the treating doctor for your injury or occupational illness. Once they choose a doctor, they will be responsible for arranging medical treatment and properly filing the necessary reports with the Division of Workers Compensation.
Important: You should receive a letter from the DWC in a timely fashion after your employer submits the First Report of Injury. You’ll receive the “Notification of Rights” letter if your injury results in lost time from work. You’ll receive the “Medical-Only” letter if your injury doesn’t affect your ability to work. If you don’t receive either letter after your employer has filed the proper paperwork, reach out to an information specialist at 800-775-2667.