In a recent blog post about workers’ compensation law, we looked at what amounts to an occupational disease. Unfortunately, in Missouri, there are so many limitations and other obstacles that recovering compensation for a medical condition that came from the workplace is very difficult.
No Coverage for “Ordinary Diseases of Life”
One of the most important limitations for occupational diseases comes from Missouri Statute 287.067, which says that “ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment” are not covered by workers’ compensation law.
Employers make frequent use of this exception when facing a workers’ compensation claim.
In one case, Collins v. Neevel Luggage Manufacturing Company, the employee got carpal tunnel syndrome from the repetitive hand motions necessary to assemble suitcases. The employer tried to claim that carpal tunnel syndrome was an “ordinary disease of life” because people could get it, elsewhere.
While the court disagreed with that argument, saying that the problems did not have to be “literally peculiar to an occupation,” the court added that to be an occupational disease, there had to be a “recognizable link between the disease and some distinctive feature” of the worker’s job. This limitation has allowed employers to fight occupational disease claims, often by claiming that the dangerous exposure did not come from something absolutely unique to the job.
Exposure Has to Arise From and Out of Employment
Another big obstacle that injured workers need to overcome is the extremely limited scope of employment that Missouri courts have adopted. For regular workplace injuries, courts have found that injuries that happened to employees when they were not literally engaging in a work activity did not “arise from and out of employment.”
For example, in Miller v. Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, a highway construction worker’s knee popped when he was walking back to his truck. He later needed knee surgery. Even though the worker was on the clock, on a job site, and was returning to his truck from a road repair job, the Supreme Court of Missouri decided that his injury did not arise from and out of employment, as required under Missouri’s workers’ compensation law.
Sick Workers Also Have to Prove Workplace Exposure Was the Prevailing Factor
Finally, workers who have gotten sick on the job have to show that it was the workplace exposure that was the primary factor in their disability. Employers frequently fight this point by claiming that the worker was also exposed to the disease in their normal, daily lives. These arguments muddy the waters and force the hurt worker to rebut their employer’s endless claims that some mundane aspect of their lives or an isolated event contributed to their injuries.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office represent hurt workers in St. Joseph, Springfield, and Kansas City, Missouri. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.