Workers’ compensation law in Missouri is among the trickiest to understand. There are a lot of moving parts, and how payments are made to injured workers is not very intuitive.
One of these moving parts is the Second Injury Fund. Because it is not always implicated in a workplace injury, though, the Second Injury Fund can be confusing. However, it will likely be in the news over the next few months, because of ongoing issues with its funding and lawsuits over recent changes to what it covers.
What Does the Second Injury Fund Do?
The Second Injury Fund is meant to compensate workers who were already hurt, before they suffered another injury in a workplace accident. For these workers, the recent accident caused their first injury. This recent problem, though, combines with an earlier one—the worker’s second injury—to make their resulting disabilities even worse.
The Second Injury Fund in Missouri aims to compensate workers for that second injury, while the rest of the workers’ compensation fund helps to cover their first.
For example, imagine a nurse who has been having knee pain after banging it against a desk at work. A week later, her arm is broken when a patient gets aggressive. She is now out of work, but workers’ compensation funding will only focus on her broken arm.
The Second Injury Fund is to ensure that she also gets compensation for her other injury, as well: The knee pain she was experiencing before the incident.
Where Does the Money Come From?
The money that makes up the Second Injury Fund comes from a surcharge that businesses and employers pay in workers’ compensation insurance. The Second Injury Fund Unit is responsible for enforcing this surcharge and making sure companies are paying it. The Missouri State Treasurer then pools the money for injured workers to claim.
Second Injury Fund Claims
If you are hurt on the job, but had a second injury present before the accident, you could be eligible for compensation from the Second Injury Fund to help you deal with the costs of the earlier injury. With the help of your workers’ compensation attorney, you can file a claim for money from the Fund. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office would defend against the claim, to ensure that only those that are eligible are successful.
Unfortunately, ongoing problems with the Second Injury Fund have crippled its effectiveness.
Second Injury Fund a Victim of Politics
The ability of the Second Injury Fund Unit to enforce the payments into the Fund has long since been gutted by business interests who did not want to pay the surcharge. As a result, the Second Injury Fund has been nearly empty for years, leaving it unable to compensate injured workers who made successful claims against it.
In 2014, the Missouri Legislature made a compromise: Senate Bill 1 increased funding for second injury compensation, but severely limited the types of injuries that were eligible for coverage.
Senate Bill 1, though, has been challenged in court because it is written so ambiguously, and because the narrower scope of covered injuries has left thousands of hurt workers out of luck.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The Second Injury Fund is likely to be an ongoing source of news over the next few months. The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph are monitoring them closely. Contact us online or call us at (816) 875-9373 for help.