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When does Missouri Have Jurisdiction over your Workers' Compensation Claim?

Bringing Your Workers’ Compensation Claim in Missouri

            Imagine your work takes you out of the state and you get hurt on the job. Do you have to keep going back to that state to get your workers’ compensation benefits? Or what if your employer is from a different state but you get hurt while working in Missouri, what then? Even further, what if you are from Missouri, your employer is from a different state like Kansas, and you get hurt in yet another state, like New Mexico. The question then becomes: Where can I file my claim?

            These types of problems are not completely out of the ordinary. Consider workers in cities along borders (like St. Louis or Kansas City) or mobile workers like long distance truck drivers. Luckily, the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation uses a law in these circumstances that determines when claims can be filed in Missouri. There are 3 main situations that the law allows to be heard in Missouri and they are outlined below in broad terms:

1. If the injury occurred or the occupational disease was contracted in Missouri.

            On the most straight-forward level, if your accident happened in Missouri or you were working in Missouri when you contracted your occupational disease, you can file your claim here. It does not matter where your contract was made. This type of claim is probably what you think about with workers’ compensation- you live and work in Missouri for a company in Missouri. Not many wrinkles here and you can file in Missouri. Once you start adding the additional factors, it starts to get tricky.

2. If the injury/occupational disease occurred outside Missouri but the contract of employment was formed in Missouri (unless the contract specifically states where the claim is to be made).

            If you get hurt outside of Missouri, there is still a chance you could file you claim here. This might be very important to you if you are from Missouri and do not want to deal with travel and more difficult communication to go about seeking your workers’ compensation benefits. The big test courts apply in this situation is if your contract was formed here. If the contract was formed in Missouri, you can file here; if not, you will have a harder time getting into the Missouri courts.

            Figuring out where the contract was formed can be complicated. In Missouri, the courts will look at where the “last act” necessary to make a deal occurred. So, if an out-of-state employer called you while you were in Missouri and said “You’re hired, come in tomorrow for your first assignment” and you accepted, you have a pretty strong argument that your contract was formed in Missouri (that is where you accepted). On the other hand, if the employer called and said “Come on in to the shop in Illinois and we’ll give you a drug test and a driving test. If you pass, you’re hired” you would have a much more difficult time getting into court in Missouri. The ‘last act’ in that case would be passing both tests and that would happen outside of Missouri. This determination often focuses on specific facts- where you were when you accepted the job, where your checks were sent to, where you applied for the job, where you reported to work, etc. It is a very fact based process to figure out if your contract was formed in Missouri or a different state!

            Finally, part of the rule says contracts can have a specific section stating that claims need to be filed in a certain state or that a certain state’s laws will be applied. While these can be enforced in many cases, they are not the final word. If your contract has language saying a certain state will be the forum, it is worth looking into whether that section will actually be upheld by the courts.

3. If the injuries or occupational disease occurred outside of Missouri but the employment was ‘principally localized’ in Missouri for the previous 13 weeks.

            Many workers in border cities like St. Louis or Kansas City can imagine this being the case- they work almost all of their time in Missouri but occasionally have a job in Kansas or Illinois and they get hurt while out of state.  If this is the case, there is still a good argument that you can file your claim here.

This section was added in 2005 because the lawmakers realized that Missouri, as a state, has a very strong interest in protecting its own workers, even if those workers occasionally go out of state. So if you are a mainly Missouri worker, who got hurt while working the rare job in another state, you might still be able to file a claim in your home state.

Conclusion

            Determining where you can file can be tricky. There are a lot of laws at play. Additionally, the facts of each and every case are important and can change how the rules listed above apply.

 If you have any questions, feel free to email ljc@bollwerktatlow.com or call any one of the lawyers at Bollwerk & Tatlow!

Sources

I Mo. Workers' Compensation Law § 1.39 (2013)

Patton v. Patton, 308 S.W.2d 739, 743 (Mo. 1958)

Gash v. Black & Veatch, 976 S.W.2d 31 (Mo. App. 1998)

Scott v. Elderlite Express, 148 S.W.3d 860, 863 (Mo. App. 2004)

       

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