Magazine article Risk Management

The Missouri Overhaul

Magazine article Risk Management

The Missouri Overhaul

Article excerpt

When Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed sweeping workers compensation reform legislation in 2005, Missouri joined the list of states that have recently reformed their workers compensation systems to target fraud.

Prior to these changes, the courts had liberally applied or interpreted Missouri workers compensation laws, finding in favor of employees and granting compensation accordingly. Now an impartial standard of review has been inserted into the statute.

Missouri legislation defined work-related accidents and injuries. Specifically, a compensable injury now is one that has arisen out of, and in the course of, employment. An injury by accident is compensable only if the accident was the prevailing (primary,) factor in causing the resulting medical condition and disability. These changes substituted the "prevailing factor" standard for the "substantial factor" standard.

Other significant changes include a new statutory, definition of "accident." Now an accident is defined as "an unexpected traumatic event or unusual strain identifiable by time or place of occurrence and producing at the time objective symptoms of an injury caused by a specific event during a single work shift. An injury is not compensable because work was a triggering or precipitating factor." This language marked the return of the "unusual strain" standard that governed Missouri workers compensation prior to 1993 and limited a compensable accident to a specific accident or discrete work event.

The 2005 amendments also incorporated the prevailing factor standard in occupational disease cases. Now, gradual deterioration or progressive body degeneration caused by aging or the normal activities of day-to-day living will not be compensable. Under the amendments, "occupational disease due to repetitive motions is compensable only if the occupational exposure was the prevailing factor in causing both the resulting medical condition and disability." Additionally, the 2005 amendments added a notice requirement in occupational disease cases. Now an employee has 30 days from the date of diagnosis of an occupational disease to report the condition to his or her employer.

Missouri has also clamped down on alcohol and drug use in the workplace, specifying penalties ranging from a 50% reduction in compensation up to a total forfeiture, depending on the circumstances of the injury and the employer's adopted policies on a drug-free work place. …

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