The Missouri Supreme Court is currently deciding how to rule on a case that challenges Senate Bill 1 – a piece of legislation from 2014 that drastically altered how the Second Injury Fund works. How the court handles the case will significantly impact the workers’ compensation rights of everyone in St. Joseph and the rest of Missouri.
An Overview of the Second Injury Fund
We covered the Second Injury Fund earlier in our blog. Basically, the Second Injury Fund is a pool of money that aims to compensate hurt workers for any injuries that they already had when they were involved in a workplace accident. While workers’ compensation coverage deals with injuries from the accident, the Second Injury Fund deals with those previously-sustained injuries.
Senate Bill 1 Changed the Second Injury Fund
Unfortunately, business interests in Missouri have gutted the Second Injury Fund Unit – the agency that enforces that laws that require businesses to pay money into the Fund. With less law enforcement, there were fewer reasons for businesses to pay the Second Injury Fund, so more businesses ignored the law.
In 2014, the Second Injury Fund was so low on money that the Missouri Legislature passed Senate Bill 1. This bill put some money back in the Fund, but also drastically slashed a hurt worker’s eligibility to receive compensation from the Fund.
Missouri Supreme Court Hears Case Challenging Senate Bill 1
In January, 2014, a carpentry worker fell off a ladder and severely injured his left knee. He received surgery and workers’ compensation coverage for this primary injury. At the time, though, the worker was also dealing with other, secondary injuries, as well. Because these secondary injuries contributed to the worker’s disability and also kept him from returning to work, he filed a lawsuit for compensation from the Second Injury Fund.
However, Senate Bill 1 had gone into effect mere weeks before the worker’s accident. Worse, the language used in Senate Bill 1 was very vague: There were portions that seemed to indicate that the worker was entitled to Second Injury Fund coverage, while other portions suggested that he was not. The ambiguity was so blatant that the worker added a claim to his lawsuit: The new statute was so vague it was unconstitutional.
The administrative law judge who heard the case decided that the Fund did not cover the worker’s injuries, and was not unconstitutionally vague. The worker appealed the decision to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, which sided with the administrative law judge.
When the worker appealed, the Missouri Supreme Court took the case. Oral arguments were heard on October 24, 2018. A ruling is expected in the coming months.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph are closely watching the developments of this case as it works its way through the judicial system. The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision can have a huge impact on the workers’ compensation rights of injured employees in the St. Joseph and Kansas City areas.
Contact us online or call our law office at (816) 875-9373 for legal help if you have been hurt on the worksite.