If you had an injury or disability before you were hurt at work, you might qualify for additional benefits from the Missouri Second Injury Fund. The purpose of the Second Injury Fund is to encourage employers to hire and retain employees who have disabilities.
An injured employee must have a permanent preexisting disability to trigger liability of the Fund. The prior disability must be "of such seriousness as to constitute a hindrance or obstacle to employment." In some cases, the Second Injury Fund's benefits can be substantial.
For example, an injured employee may be entitled to lifetime weekly benefits from the Second Injury Fund when a permanent total disability results from a combination of the employee's preexisting conditions and those caused by the current injury. In death cases, when the employer failed to obtain workers' compensation insurance, the Second Injury Fund can be held responsible for death benefits to the employee's dependents.
The Fund is also responsible for paying medical bills of injured employee's when the employer fails to insure its workers' compensation liability. The Fund also provides benefits to injured employees who are undergoing physical rehabilitation. To qualify for these benefits, the employee must be seriously injured and be receiving therapy at a facility certified by the Division. If the injured worker qualifies, he or she will receive $40 per week for up to 20 weeks for rehabilitation.
Second Injury Fund also provides benefits to injured employees with multiple jobs. If an employee is unable to work at a job as a result of an injury that occurred while working at another job, benefits may be claimed from the Second Injury Fund in connection with the job at which the employee was not injured.
The Second Injury Fund is funded by a surcharge applied to workers' compensation insurance premiums paid by employers. The Missouri legislature has capped the amount of the surcharge paid by employers, which has caused the Second Injury Fund to be underfunded. Unless the Missouri legislature acts, in the near future, the Fund will become insolvent and unable to pay claims. Contact your local state legislator and encourage him or her to remove the cap on the premium surcharge so that the Second Injury Fund can continue to pay worthy claims.