In our last blog post about workers’ compensation law in Missouri, we looked at whether you can file for workers’ compensation while pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. Under the “election of remedies” doctrine, you cannot benefit from both, as it could result in a double recovery.
The case we looked at in that post, Hood v. Menech, hid another interesting aspect of Missouri workers’ compensation law: What happens when the law gets changed while a claim for workers’ compensation is ongoing?
Workers’ Compensation Case Straddles Legal Changes
In Hood, a carpenter hurt himself while sawing a board on August 20, 2012. He filed his workers’ compensation claim on July 31, 2014. The case went before an administrative law judge on May 5, 2016, where the resolution hung on Missouri Statute 287.220, which dealt with the Second Injury Fund, because neither of the carpenter’s potential employers had workers’ compensation insurance.
Missouri Statute 287.220, however, was in the process of getting rewritten at the time. Missouri Senate Bill 1 (2013) had been first proposed in January, 2013. This bill would repeal the entirety of Missouri Statute 287.220 and start over from scratch.
The bill passed the legislature and was signed by the governor on July 10, 2013 – after the carpenter had gotten hurt but before he had filed his claim for workers’ compensation.
State Constitution Prohibits Most Retroactive Application of New Laws
Importantly, the Missouri Constitution, at Article I, Section 13, prohibits the retroactive application of new laws if they would:
- Take away or impair vested rights that had been acquired under the old law,
- Create a new duty, or
- Attach a new disability with respect to past transactions.
Most new laws either take away or impair vested rights, or provide new legal protections. In the workers’ compensation context in Missouri, they generally strip workers of their rights, their protections, and entitlements.
For this reason, at least with regards to workers’ compensation claims, the applicable law is generally the one that is in existence at the time of the injury.
Problems Arise for Occupational Diseases
Of course, saying that the version of the law that applies is the one that was on the books at the time of the injury only resolves the situation when the injury was one that happened at a specific moment in time. While many workplace accidents happen at a particular instant, occupational diseases and repetitive motion injuries do not. They develop over long periods of time which can complicate a case that straddles a change to workers’ compensation laws.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office represent injured workers through these difficult legal scenarios. With their guidance and legal advice, you can invoke your rights and recover the compensation that you need and deserve. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373 for help in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.