In some cases, workers’ compensation claims can recover what are known as “open medical expenses.” While the circumstances that can lead to these “medical open” awards are narrow, they appeared in one recent case before the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC).
Commission Affirms “Open Medical” Award
The case, Burns v. Wal-Mart, involved a cashier who tripped and fell over a wooden pallet during her break period. Her fall was a serious one and she needed a reverse left shoulder replacement. The procedure left her immobilized for four weeks, required six months of physical therapy, and left her with job restrictions. Even after the surgery, though, she had shoulder pain, which interrupted her sleep, and shoulder weakness that impacted her life.
When the hurt worker’s case was heard by the administrative law judge, he ordered Wal-Mart to pay for additional, “open” medical expenses related to the artificial shoulder joint that had been used to replace her injured one. When Wal-Mart appealed the case to the LIRC, the Commission affirmed the open medical award.
Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law Covers Future Expenses Related to Prosthetics
The potential for an “open medical” award is often overlooked because it is only possible in a narrow set of cases that involve prosthetics or implantable medical devices.
Under Missouri Statute 287.140, the workers’ compensation award has to include all of the medical expenses that “may reasonably be required after the injury or disability, to cure and relieve from the effects of the injury.” Subsection (8) of the statute states that, if the worker would benefit from one, the employer can be required to provide “artificial legs, arms, hands, surgical orthopedic joints, or eyes, or braces, as needed, for life.”
The last two words are important: Injured workers can receive these benefits for the rest of their lives. Even after their workers’ compensation claim has settled, Missouri Statute 287.140(8) allows victims to reopen their claim and receive medical benefits for new prosthetic devices, modifications to existing ones, or life-threatening complications related to one.
In essence, “open medical” awards require employers to continue to service medical devices that helped the victim to recover from their workplace injury.
In the Burns case, this portion of Missouri’s workers’ compensation law applied because the victim needed a new shoulder from her fall. The shoulder replacement surgery tied Wal-Mart to the victim’s recovery for the rest of her life.
Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
While open medical awards are only available when a prosthetic is involved, these cases involve the worst workplace injuries that are not fatal.
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office legally represent hurt workers in St. Joseph, Springfield, Kansas City, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373 for help.