You got hurt at work. It's a fairly serious back injury, and you spend time in the hospital. Even when you get out, you cannot just go back to work. You stay at home, resting and taking painkillers while you heal.
You do hope you can work again eventually, but that does not pay the bills right now. You start digging into your options for workers' compensation in Missouri, hoping to get the financial assistance you need.
Below are four important questions to ask:
1. Can they fire you?
If you file that workers' compensation claim, can they just fire you so they don't have to pay it? They may want to let you go since you haven't returned to work anyway, so they can hire someone else to do your job.
The good news is that they cannot fire you for filing the claim alone. As long as you followed the proper procedures and everything checks out, you have legal protections. They may need to replace you if you can never come back, but they cannot take your job away just because you sought fair compensation.
2. Can they retaliate in other ways?
When you get back, are they going to cut your pay to make up for the money spent on workers' comp? Are they going to take your vacation time or give you the shifts that no one wants, along with a demotion?
They cannot. This is retaliation, and it is generally illegal, just as it would be to fire you. They have to treat you fairly through the whole process and beyond.
3. Do you always get workers' comp, even if you caused your own injury?
It all depends on how the injury occurred. If you did something to act outside of the general rules and regulations of the workplace — or outside of the law — then you may not get benefits.
For instance, perhaps you went out with coworkers at lunch and you had too much to drink. You then got hurt while you were intoxicated. This could make it impossible to get compensation if the injury wouldn't have happened to a sober worker.
4. Can you get benefits after returning to work?
Possibly. If your wages are still lower than they once were, you may get benefits to make up the difference. For instance, perhaps the back injury is painful enough that you can only work 25 hours per week, rather than 40 hours per week. You get paid by the hour, so you earn far less. Compensation may continue until you earn as much as you did before the injury.
Make sure you know all of your legal rights as you move forward with this process.