The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled on a case challenging changes to the state’s Second Injury Fund. The ruling is a blow to injured workers in need of workers’ compensation, and illustrates the significance of “strictly construing” workers’ compensation law.
Second Injury Fund Makes it to the Missouri Supreme Court
Many people who suffer a workplace accident and get hurt have already gotten hurt at work, before. Those earlier injuries can make it more difficult for them to return to work after their newest setback.
Missouri’s Second Injury Fund provides workers’ compensation for those preexisting injuries, leaving it to the rest of workers’ compensation law to cover the costs of that newest injury.
However, the Second Injury Fund has been gutted by Missouri’s business interests, forcing the legislature to enact Senate Bill 1 in 2014, which added funds but drastically limited who could recover compensation from the Fund.
A hurt worker with past injuries filed a workers’ compensation claim against the Second Injury Fund for his earlier injuries. The case went to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Strictly Construes Law and Denies Coverage
At the heart of the lawsuit was a problem of timing:
- The worker’s prior injuries all happened before 2009
- Senate Bill 1 was enacted on January 1, 2014
- The worker’s main injury happened in an accident later on in January, 2014
One of the provisions from Senate Bill 1 was to prevent anyone from recovering compensation from the Second Injury Fund for partial permanent disabilities that happened after January 1, 2014.
Another provision from Senate Bill 1, though, stated that “all cases of permanent disability where there has been previous disability due to injuries occurring prior to January 1, 2014, shall be compensated” under the rest of the statute.
The injured worker claimed that this created an ambiguity.
The Missouri Supreme Court, however, pointed to the piece of Missouri’s workers’ compensation law that orders courts to “strictly construe” the law. It strictly construed the law to accommodate the provision that barred partial permanent disability claims made after the calendar turned to 2014, and ruled against the worker.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The fallout from the case is still unclear – the ruling was only issued yesterday. However, the initial reaction is that the court’s ruling would mean that the Second Injury Fund is closed to all future workers’ compensation claims for partial permanent disabilities: The only people who could recover compensation are those who have been receiving Second Injury Fund compensation for awhile.
If true, this would be a huge blow to the vast majority of workers who could have benefitted from the Fund. It also highlights what many workers’ compensation lawyers in Missouri have suspected for awhile, now: “Strictly construing” workers’ compensation law means stretching to find a reason to deny a workers’ compensation claim.
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office strive to help injured workers get the help they need. Contact them online or call their law office in St. Joseph at (816) 875-9373.