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Know the changes in Missouri's Workers' Compensation Law effective in 2014 relative to Occupational Disease cases

Missouri's workers' compensation law went through some pretty major changes, effective January 1, 2014.  Some of the biggest changes relate to occupational disease claims. Here's what's new as of 2014:

 

1.  Section 287.020 was amended to add a new Subsection 11, which defined “occupational diseases due to toxic exposure,” to include the following diseases:Mesothelioma, Asbestosis, Berylliosis, Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis, Bronchiolitis Obliterans, Silicosis, Tuberculosis, Manganism, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome.These are the only occupational diseases due to toxic exposure that are recognized under the Statute.

 

2.  The word “death” was added to Section 287.067.2 RSMo. and states now that an “injury or death by occupational disease is compensable only if the occupational exposure was the prevailing factor incausing both the resulting medical condition and disability.”

 

3.  Occupational diseases were added to the exclusive remedy provisions under the Workers’ Compensation law as per Section 287.120.There was a period of time where occupational diseases could be filed in both civil court and in the workers’ compensation tribunal due to the fact that in 2005, the term “occupational disease” was removed from the exclusivity provisions of the law.  As of January 1, 2014, they have been added back into the exclusivity provisions and now, any occupational disease case arising after January 1, 2014 must be filed in the Division of Workers’ Compensation.There is an exception to this rule with respect to Mesothelioma liability. Under Section 287.200.4, an employer can reject Mesothelioma liability under the statute, in which case, the employer could be sued in civil court.

 

4. There is a new enhanced benefit provision in the statute for occupational diseases due to toxic exposure.This is set forth in Section 287.200.4.The benefit enhancement is as follows:  


       a.  For occupational diseases due to toxic exposure (not including Mesothelioma), the enhancement is an amount equal to 200% of the State average weekly wage as of the date of diagnosis for 100 weeks.This basically means that workers with toxic exposure injuries are allowed to collect more than the maximum rates established for PPD and PTD.

 

       b. If the toxic exposure is diagnosed as Mesothelioma, then the employee is entitled to an amount equal to 300% of the State average weekly wage for 212 weeks.

 

       c. If the employee is deemed to be permanently and totally disabled or dies due to the toxic exposure, the employee is entitled to PTD and death benefits when the enhanced benefits have been exhausted.

 

        d.  If the employee dies before the enhanced benefits have been paid, then the enhanced benefits are payable to the employee’s spouse or children in addition to all other death benefits that they would be entitled to under Section 287.240 RSMo.

 

        e. If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the enhanced benefits shall be paid to the employee’s estate.

 

        f.  Employees who obtain additional benefits for Asbestosis who later get an award for Mesothelioma do not receive more than the employee would have received from Mesothelioma.In other words, the enhanced benefits for Asbestosis don’t stack on top of the benefits for Mesothelioma.

 

        g.  If there is a potential third-party liability claim that can be pursued by the employee or his dependents, then the employer is not subrogated to the rights of the employee or dependents in the wrongful death action.

 

**For psychological stress claims for firefighters under Section 287.067.6, the firefighter must merely establish direct causal relationship in order to receive benefits for stress (this is an easier standard than all other folks, who must prove extreme and unusual stress).  The statute was amended to include paid peace officers of a police department.  Therefore, now, firefighters and most police officers are entitled to the easier burden of proof.

 

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