Each state has its own workers’ compensation system. The small differences between those employment laws can drastically alter how much compensation injured workers can receive after a work injury. To prevent hurt workers from shopping around for a workers’ compensation system that gives them the best benefits, each state has rules that limit the jurisdiction of their workers’ compensation laws.
A recent case heard by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) shows how Missouri's works.
Hurt Worker Tries to Get Coverage in Missouri for Enhanced Benefits
The case, Wulf v. Tradesman International, involved a skilled carpenter from Kansas who was in an unorthodox employment relationship: His employer, based in Kansas, would sporadically assign him carpentry jobs. Most of these jobs were in Kansas. However, one was in Georgia.
It was while at the job in Georgia that the carpenter fell from a ladder and got hurt. He applied for workers’ compensation with his employer in Kansas and started receiving temporary total disability benefits at the state's maximum rate of $645 per week. However, when the worker saw that he stood to receive more under Missouri’s workers’ compensation system, he applied for workers’ comp here.
The administrative law judge denied the claim, stating that Missouri did not have jurisdiction over the case. The LIRC agreed.
The Three Ways Missouri Can Have Jurisdiction Over Workers’ Compensation Claims
Missouri workers’ compensation law can have jurisdiction over a claim in three situations:
- The injury happened in Missouri,
- The employment contract was entered into in Missouri, or
- The worker’s employment was localized in Missouri during the thirteen weeks before the injury.
Importantly, this is a disjunctive test: Only one of these situations is necessary for Missouri to have jurisdiction over a case.
There is nothing preventing multiple states from having jurisdiction over a case, either. Should this happen, workers can make use of whichever system they want.
The Injury Happened in Missouri
Perhaps the simplest way to trigger Missouri’s jurisdiction is for the workplace injury to happen in the state. Even if a Kansas City, Kansas, worker crosses the river and gets hurt while on the job on the Missouri side, Missouri law could still cover their injury.
Of course, this only clarifies sudden workplace injuries. Occupational injuries that happen over a long period of time still present difficulties.
A Missouri Employment Contract
The terms of the employment contract can also trigger coverage by Missouri’s workers’ compensation law. Generally, the pertinent term of the contract is its choice of law provision, which says which state’s law will govern the contract. However, especially for very large corporations, the state chosen may have very little to do with the actual performance of the employment contract. In these cases, workers can argue that the connection of Missouri to their course of employment triggers the law’s jurisdiction over their workers’ compensation claim.
Employment Was Localized in Missouri for Thirteen Weeks
A way to show that a worker’s employment was sufficiently connected to the state of Missouri to trigger its workers’ compensation laws is with proof that the work had been localized in the state during the thirteen weeks preceding the injury. Take, for example, a Kansas worker for a Kansas company that worked onsite in Missouri for several months. This can create a sufficient connection that the worker can make use of its workers’ compensation system.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
Proving that there is jurisdiction is up to the injured worker. In Wulf, both the administrative law judge and the LIRC found that he had not presented persuasive evidence to satisfy any of the requirements for jurisdiction, and denied the case.