Originally, Second Injury Funds (SIF) were established in many states to take some of the financial burden of workers’ compensation benefits off employers. These funds were mostly collected through surcharges on workers’ comp insurance companies and administered by state government agencies. The benefits were provided to workers who suffered an injury on the job that made a pre-existing disability worse and prevented them from being able to work. Rather than the employer being responsible for the entire compensation award—considering that their workplace was only partially responsible for the employee’s disability—the Second Injury Fund contributed towards the benefits package for the worker. However, in both Kansas and Missouri, second injury funds have lost much of their effectiveness.
How the Second Injury Fund Has Changed in Missouri
For second injuries sustained prior to January 1, 2014, the Missouri Second Injury Fund (SIF) provides five potential benefits to workers. These benefits include:
Permanent Partial and Permanent Total Disability benefits. If the employee had a pre-existing permanent partial disability (for example, loss of sight in one eye) and then suffers a work injury that makes that disability worse (such as losing sight in the other eye), the SIF would be liable for the degree to which the second injury makes the first disability worse. Likewise, if an employee is partially disabled when a work injury renders him totally disabled, the SIF would be liable for a portion of the benefits.
Death benefits. The second injury fund will pay death benefits to the family of a worker killed on the job only when the employer is uninsured.
Rehabilitation benefits. If the injured worker goes to a rehabilitation facility approved by the Division of Workers’ Compensation, he may be eligible for benefits for rehabilitation from the SIF.
Indemnity for lost wages from a second job. If a worker is injured at his primary place of employment and is unable to continue working for a second employer, SIF may pay benefits for those lost wages.
Medical expenses for uninsured employers. The Second Injury Fund is also responsible for payment of medical bills of injured employees when the employer fails to insure its workers’ compensation liability as required by law.
If you were awarded any of these benefits for a second injury sustained before January 1, 2014, you should continue to receive them. If you are suffering from an injury you can prove occurred before January 1, 2014, you may still be eligible for these benefits. However, if you suffered a second injury after January 1, 2014, you are only eligible for the following SIF benefits:
Rehabilitation benefits. These benefits have not changed. Workers must go to an approved rehabilitation facility for injuries made worse by a second injury in order to be covered by the SIF.
Permanent Total Disability benefits. Under very specific conditions, a permanent total disability caused by the combination of a new work injury and a pre-existing condition may be compensable under SIF.
Clearly, the second injury fund program has become much more simplified in the last couple of years, but it may still be worth pursuing a claim under SIF if you have suffered a work injury that made a pre-existing condition worse.
The Second Injury Fund in Kansas
Now known as the Workers’ Compensation Fund, Kansas’ Second Injury Fund was established in 1974 to “encourage the employment of persons disabled as a result of specific impairments by relieving employers, wholly or partially, of workers’ compensation liability resulting from compensable industrial accidents suffered by these employees.” The fund closed to new claims in 1994; however, under the Kansas Insurance Department, it still maintains existing claims and manages funds for workers injured in uninsured workplaces and for insolvent employers.
What Should You Do If You Suffer a Second Injury?
While the changes in Second Injury Funds across the nation may seem like a loss of benefits to workers, it is actually more of a loss to employers, who are now liable for the entirety of compensation awards to their injured employees. If you are struggling with an SIF claim from previous years or are fighting with your employer over covering a recent second injury, call the Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys. We know the laws—then and now—and who to go to for your benefits. Call us today at (888) 348-2616.