Many injured Missouri workers are not aware of additional workers compensation benefits that may be available from the Missouri Second Injury Fund (SIF). These Second Injury Fund benefits may be paid in addition to receiving benefits from the employer at the time of the injury. Under the Missouri Workers Compensation act, disability benefits may be available from the SIF for injured workers who were already partially disabled at the time of the work-related injury. When an employee sustains a compensable work injury and the work-related injury combines with the prior disabilities to result in permanent total disability, or increased permanent partial disability, the employer (at the time of the last injury) is liable only for compensation due from the last injury. If more disability benefits are owed to the employee, they may be paid from the SIF. There are two types of disability benefits paid by the SIF:
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits. An employee must have a permanent pre-existing disability that combines with the work-related injury to create greater disability to qualify for PPD benefits from the SIF. In order for an employee to recover from the SIF, minimum threshold limits regarding both the pre-existing disability and work-related disability must be met. The employee must have disability of at least 12.5% of the body as a whole, (back, neck, head, etc.) or at least 15% of a major extremity (foot, ankle, knee, hip, hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder). If these thresholds are met for both the work-related disability and the pre-existing disability, the SIF may pay a lump-sum settlement. Usually, this is paid pursuant to a settlement agreement between the injured worker and the SIF, but some cases do require an evidentiary hearing (trial) before an administrative law judge. The settlement with the SIF is usually determined after the "new" injury is settled or tried.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits. If the last work-related injury, by itself, makes the injured worker permanently and totally disabled, the SIF has no liability for PTD benefits. However, the SIF is liable for PTD benefits when the work-related injury and the prior disability(ies) combine to make the employee permanently and totally disabled, meaning that the employee is no longer able to work at any job. A doctor must determine whether you are PTD. In this situation, the employer is liable only for the compensation for the most recent injury and the SIF pays the remaining lifetime benefits. For an employee to receive lifetime PTD benefits from the SIF, an evidentiary hearing or trial before an administrative law judge is required; the SIF will not simply agree to make those lifetime benefit payments without an award from a judge. In some cases, the SIF may agree to a lump-sum settlement with an employee to settle the employee's claim for lifetime benefit payments, but the settlements are usually for a limited amount.
If you are injured on the job in Missouri, you should consult an experienced workers compensation attorney to find out if you might be entitled to any benefits from the Missouri Second Injury Fund. The Kansas City based workers compensation lawyers have been handling work comp claims and cases, including second injury fund claims and cases, for 15 years. Call for a free consultation with no obligation. You can also download our free book at www.workcompsurvival.com.