People who have been hurt on the job in Missouri have a steep hill to climb to prove that they deserve workers’ compensation. One of the trickiest is to show that there is a direct causal connection between the job and an occupational disease.
Occupational Diseases Have to be Directly Caused by Job
The workers’ compensation law that defines occupational diseases, Missouri Statute 287.067, does not say that all workplace injuries have to have a “direct causal relationship” with the victim’s job. Instead, it only uses this phrase for specific lung diseases and psychological stress suffered by police officers and firefighters. Any other occupational disease only has to “arise…in the course of the employment” and “have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a rational consequence.”
Nevertheless, Missouri courts have used phrases similar to “direct causal connection” for workers’ compensation claims since at least as early as 1968.
The stretch is not just a matter of semantics. Proving that an occupational disease has a direct causal connection to the sick worker’s job is more difficult than showing that it happened in the course of employment and came from a risk connected with the job.
Employers Use Limitations to Deny Claims
Employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies use this tighter requirement to deny legitimate claims for workers’ comp all the time.
A favorite defense tactic is to muddy the waters with evidence that the worker’s disabilities or sickness came from somewhere other than the workplace. This undermines the direct causal connection to the job site that is necessary to trigger workers’ compensation coverage.
The practical reality of this defense is that every facet of a worker’s life becomes a part of the case as the defendant looks for a source for the disease that is not in the workplace. Everything that the worker did that could conceivably have exposed them to the source of the occupational disease will be brought up. Because it is up to the worker to prove that there was a direct causal connection between the workplace and their medical condition, they will have to rebut these alternatives, no matter how many there are.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
Establishing that an occupational disease did, in fact, happen in the workplace is not an easy thing to do. Combatting evidence that the condition came from outside the workplace is a big reason why.
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office strive to legally represent hurt workers and their families by fighting for their rights to compensation. Call them at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online if you or a loved one has developed a chronic condition in a western Missouri workplace.