Many of the recent disputes in Missouri workers’ compensation law have centered on the reading of Missouri Statute 287.220. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) has been repeatedly reprimanded by Missouri courts for applying the wrong subsection of the law.
Why has the LIRC, which is supposed to be intimately familiar with workers’ compensation law in the state, consistently made what seems to be an obvious error? And why does it matter?
The Difference Between Subsections 2 and 3 in Missouri Statute 287.220
Missouri Statute 287.220 has to do with the most hotly-debated aspect of Missouri’s workers’ compensation law: The Second Injury Fund. But the difference between Missouri Statute 287.220.2 and 287.220.3 seems, at first blush, to be ridiculously straightforward – subsection 2 covers permanent disability injuries that happened before January 1, 2014, while subsection 3 covers claims against the Second Injury Fund and subsequent occupational disease claims filed after January 1, 2014.
These limitations based on the date of the injuries was added to the law in 2013’s Senate Bill 1.
But the dates only distract from the confusion. Which injury has to happen before or after the start of 2014? The prior, secondary injury that brought the worker to the Second Injury Fund, or the primary, subsequent injury that led to the workers’ compensation claim? When does an occupational disease happen? Does it matter if the worker has suffered a partial or a total permanent disability?
The text of the law only definitively answers the last question: 287.220.3(2) states that “No claims for permanent partial disability occurring after January 1, 2014, shall be filed against the second injury fund.” It also strictly limits when permanent total disability benefits can be paid out by the Fund for injuries that happen in 2014 or later.
Courts Have Had to Step in to Connect the Dots
The poorly-drafted text of Missouri Statute 287.220 has forced courts, including the Missouri Supreme Court, to fill in the gaping holes left by the law. The most notable example is Cosby v. Treasurer of Missouri, which held that all of the injuries must have happened in 2013 or earlier for 287.220.2 to apply, effectively rendering that part of the statute obsolete.
The LIRC Has Had to Forge Ahead on Its Own
Those court decisions, however, take a long time to come out. Cosby was only handed down in 2019, six years after Senate Bill 1 altered Missouri Statute 287.220. In the meantime, workers’ compensation claims continue to get filed and the LIRC has had to make important decisions about how to interpret the law.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The uncertainty in the law makes it difficult to move forward with workers’ compensation claims because it makes them tricky to settle. Insurers use that uncertainty to justify lowball settlement offers, especially when they are dealing with an injured worker who does not have legal representation.
The workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office help accident victims in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.