Tag Archives: Workplace Injury

7 Common Workers’ Compensation Injuries on Construction Sites

The construction industry is responsible for the largest quantity of workers compensation claims out of any other industry.

A study from 2002, which was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, shows that the construction industry had the most missed days of work per year compared to other industries, as a result of occupational injuries or illnesses.

Injuries in Workplace - Missed Days of WorkThe above chart is reproduced using numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, and shows the following missed days of work, using a sample of 10,000 full-time workers. See http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2004/mar/wk4/art05.htm

The statistics do not lie.  You can clearly see that the construction industry is particularly chock full of dangers that can cause injury to workers, which consequentially causes absence from work.

This is true because in the construction industry, workers are often dealing with heavy, powerful machinery.  When the stakes are high like that, the slip of a finger has the potential of causing a catastrophic accident.

If this happens, or even if it’s a minor accident, construction workers need to know their rights regarding compensation from their employers, as well as compensation rights regarding third parties that may be liable.

This website is filled with information designed to inform construction workers about their rights regarding workers’ compensation claims as well as safety tips to prevent these accidents and injuries from occurring in the first place.

This article specifically focuses on a number of common compensable injuries or accidents that occur on construction sites, their statistics, and it serves to alert the general public about the need for safety procedures and OSHA compliance in such situations.

In 2014, approximately 1 in every 5 worker fatalities in the private sector occurred in the construction context. 

OSHA specifically cautions employers about the “Fatal Four” types of accidents on construction projects:

  • Falls
  • Electrocutions
  • Struck by Object
  • Caught in/between

While these are the most fatal, there are a number of other common accidents that occur on construction sites, which will be discussed below.

1. Scaffolding Accidents

Scaffolding accidents can arise from collapsing scaffolding, objects falling from the scaffolding, or even from workers falling from heights, especially if the scaffolding is greatly elevated.

When the occupation requires the use of scaffolding at great heights, injuries can be very serious, and the aftermath can be devastating for the injured worker and his family.

If you are injured from a fall from heights, or if  you are a victim of a scaffolding collapse, you likely have recourse, and you should retain an attorney immediately to protect your rights.Scaffolding & birds

Depending on the cause of the accident, the employee may be able to seek compensation from his/her employer or from a third party who was negligent in constructing or maintaining the scaffolding.

In the event that an innocent bystander is injured in a scaffolding accident, that person has numerous options to recover for his/her loss. The statutory limitations governing Missouri Workers’ Compensation claims would not likely apply (assuming the innocent bystander’s injuries did not arise out of the course and scope of employment).

Liability may be easier to prove if OSHA violations are present (also recovery may be greater pursuant to Missouri statute).

Because the use of scaffolding poses so many dangers, OSHA regulations are also stricter.

Employers should implement safety procedures that ensure compliance with the requirements set forth by OSHA, and Employees should take care to follow the regulations.

If you think OSHA violations may be present on the work site, contact one of our attorneys to find out your rights.

2. Electrocution

On average, electrical accidents claim a minimum of 150 lives each year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The three most common causes for fatal accidents as a result of electrocution in the workplace arise from:

  1. Overhead power lines
  2. Wiring involving transformers and other electrical work
  3. Contact with electrically powered machines or tools

The statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which were later compiled and organized by the Electrical Safety Foundation International, show an incredibly lopsided amount of electrical injuries occurring in the construction industry over any other industry.Electrical Fatalities by Industry

The construction industry dwarves all other industries with respect to fatalities resulting from an electrical accidents or electrocution. In fact, the construction industry accounts for more than 3 times the fatalities of the closest competing industry.

Additionally, it may come as a surprise, but many of the electrical accidents that are seen on construction projects come from the use of a crane and contact with overhead powerlines.  In fact, from 1992 to 2006, nearly 1/3rd of the 323 crane deaths involved overhead power line electrocutions.

Electrical accidents and electrocution can be serious and can clearly be fatal. Any construction worker dealing with electrical components or wiring should always ensure that OSHA safety procedures are followed.

In the event that an employer does not have an OSHA-compliant procedure in place, you should educate yourself on the regulations and be sure to comply for your own safety.

Additionally, you should take any necessary measures to prevent potential harm to yourself or your co-workers by reporting these issues to management or to the Division of Labor if management has deaf ears.  Make sure to document any complaints or communications regarding any OSHA violations.

If you or a family member is injured as a result of electrocution, you should contact a workers comp attorney immediately as your right to recover may be subject to certain time restrictions.

3. Crane Accidents

From 1992 to 2006, approximately 323 construction workers were fatally injured in crane accidents.

It doesn’t take statistics, however, to know that a crane can be an exceptionally powerful piece of equipment that can cause a lot of damage.  Construction crews use it to erect enormous skyscrapers and mobilize large materials to heights that would be impossible without the crane’s assistance.

However, this great power can also breed extremely dangerous situations for individuals working on the construction project.

Because cranes are so large and unwieldy, workers sometimes have difficulty controlling its movement, and people can be severely or fatally injured in certain circumstances.

Far Away Cranes at DuskObviously, the proper safety procedure can minimize these damages, but there will inevitably be workers who suffer the consequences of a crane accident.

These injuries are particularly ripe for recovery when they occur on a worksite, as the employer usually has insurance that will take responsibility for payment of any successful workers compensation claims.

In the event, that you are faced with such a situation, contact one of our construction accident attorneys as soon as possible.

4. Back Injuries

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that on average over 1,000,000 workers experienced back injuries per year.

The back is composed of a number of different muscles including the Trapezius, Deltoid, Infraspinatus, Teres Major, Teres Minor, and the Rhomboid Major.  Any of these areas are susceptible to injury, but OSHA states that on average 80% of back injuries occur in the lower back.

What types of movements in the workplace can cause back injury?

There are a number of movements that can cause back injuries including any or all of the following:

  • Twisting from side to side
  • Placing objects that have any appreciable amount of weight
  • Lifting
  • Carrying heavy objects
  • Operating heavy machinery

If you strain or pull a back muscle, you could be debilitated indefinitely, depending on the severity of the injury.

As noted above, these types of injuries occur more frequently on construction projects because of the manual labor involved, heavy lifting, as well as the involvement of machinery or tools that can cause strain to the back. Looking at the numbers gathered by OSHA, we see that it is not uncommon for a worker to face this type of injury.

Back Injuries 1,000,000 Per YearIf you require serious medical work, such as back surgery or rehabilitation as a result of a workplace injury, it is especially important to immediately contact an attorney because the quality of your medical treatment may not rise to the appropriate standard if the employer is responsible for choosing the physician.

Please contact one of our worker’s compensation lawyers to learn about your rights and potential means of recovery.

5. Repetitive Stress Injury

Depending on the worker’s responsibility on the construction site, many positions in the construction industry lend to repetitive bodily motions.  These repetitive bodily motions can cause trauma to the worker, resulting in his/her injury or incapacitation.

A number of different jobs in the construction field can result in this elevated trauma which focuses the stress on a specific body part, and ultimately leads to injury.

Although the most prevalent repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, the construction industry is filled with injuries from repeated trauma to certain targeted or susceptible parts of the body.

St. Louis Arch at SunriseSome repetitive stress injuries arise from repeated use of heavy machinery like a jackhammer or other equipment or tools that call for continuous and/or strenuous exercise over a period of time.

One more common example is when a carpenter is required to continuously use a hammer or power tools. If the carpenter is injured, s/he most likely has a reasonable shot at succeeding in a workers comp claim. The facts of each case should be evaluated by a knowledgeable attorney before determining the validity of your workman’s comp claim. 

Repetitive stress injuries vary widely, and each specific case should be evaluated by a competent workers’ compensation attorney.

If you believe you are suffering from a repetitive stress injury, please contact one of our lawyers today.

7. Accident Involving Vehicles or Heavy Machinery

From 1992 to 2010 there were a little over 400 deaths per year on construction sites on average, which resulted from vehicle accidents and heavy machinery/equipment.

Many of these deaths were not simply the result of a car accident or heavy equipment colliding with a worker.  The machinery and vehicles fatally injured workers in a number of different ways, including collisions between two vehicles, accidents involving one vehicle, laborers getting caught “in between” or the laborer is struck by the vehicle or machinery and wounded.

Vehicle Accident (Car Turned Over)In any case, the use of vehicles and heavy machinery on a construction site can pose serious dangers. As such, it is important for employers to implement a strict safety checklist for the workers to follow.  Failure to train laborers or to implement important safety procedures can unnecessarily put the employees in harm’s way.

In fact, from 2008 to 2010, laborers suffered the most fatal accidents out of any other occupation on construction sites amounting in approximately 63 fatalities over the three year period.  During that time period, construction managers were the most protected on the construction site with a mere 5 fatalities.

Accidents involving heavy machinery are common.  However, this does not have to be the case.  After reviewing the statistics, laborers and other individuals working on construction projects should recognize the great risk that machinery and vehicles pose when working in the construction field.

Noting this danger, workers should educate themselves on the proper safety protocol and take necessary precautions to prevent injuries to themselves and their co-workers.   OSHA has a vast amount of material that directs employers and employees on the suggested actions when involved in dangerous situations on a construction site.

Men & Excavator at DuskFor those that are involved in an vehicle or machinery accident, you may have rights to compensation from your employer based on the Missouri workers’ compensation statutes. You may also have a claim against a third party for negligence or some other cause of action that would allow you recover outside the limitations of the workers’ comp statutes.

If you are the victim of an accident involving a vehicle or heavy machinery, our attorneys would like to hear your story.  We can help you protect your rights.

7. Building Collapse

There are vacant buildings all over the St. Louis area, and as St. Louis continues to grow, these buildings are demolished and replaced with new structures.

The act of reconstructing a dilapidated building, however, can be an extremely dangerous process.

Demolition of BuildingOn top of that, many construction projects are lacking the necessary safety protocol, thereby subjecting the workers to unnecessary harm.

Accordingly, when dealing with construction on an old building, construction workers have to be on high alert because the potential injuries could be catastrophic.

In addition to the danger of the building collapsing, often times the deconstruction of a building requires the use of large machinery.  As we’ve seen from a number of the statistics cited in this article, which are derived mostly from OSHA studies, the use of large machinery creates a threat of potential worker endangerment.

For that very reason, employers need to have safety procedures in place and should be complying with OSHA regulations at all times. 

For those employers that fail to do so, the consequences may be severe, as the statute allows a worker to recover the ordinary amount plus additional amounts if the employer is found to be in violation of certain laws or regulations—contact a workers comp attorney to see if your situation qualifies.

Alternatively, if you have suffered an injury from a negligent worker or due to inadequate or improper safety procedures by your employer, please contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

References

http://files.esfi.org/file/Electrical-Safety-Then-and-Now.pdf

https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html

http://ehs.okstate.edu/training/oshaback.htm

http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2004/mar/wk4/art05.htm

http://www.nccco.org/docs/default-source/crane-safety-studies/crane-related-deaths-in-construction-and-recommendations-for-their-prevention.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/osch0054.pdf

http://www.cpwr.com/sites/default/files/publications/CB%20page%2046.pdf

Missouri Workers’ Comp Attorney Answers FAQs

Missouri workers’ Compensation laws are complex and extensive. If you suffer from a workplace injury, you should always consult competent legal counsel who can help you navigate through the workers’ comp claim process.

The statutes often have strict requirements, and an injured worker’s compensation depends on properly complying with the same. If the proper paperwork or proper procedure is not followed, the employee could be left with no remedy.

Below is a general overview of Missouri Workers’ Compensation law as well as a description of occupational disease and how it applies to workers.

This information should be used merely as a resource to familiarize yourself with the Workers’ Comp process:

The information contained in this article and throughout this website should not construed as legal advice. The authors of this website make no representation as to the accuracy, completeness, or applicability of any of the information cited herein. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Always consult with an attorney who can evaluate the specific facts of your case.

Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law Generally

What are the first steps I should take after a Work Related Accident?

Employees should strongly consider hiring an attorney immediately after a work-related accident occurs.  An employee has a short timeline to alert the employer in writing immediately after an injury occurs in the workplace.

An employee has up to 30 days to report from the time the accident occurred.

The applicable statutory section is R.S.Mo. § 287.420 and states the following in relevant part:

“No proceedings for compensation for any accident under this chapter shall be maintained unless written notice of the time, place and nature of the injury, and the name and address of the person injured, has been given to the employer no later than thirty days after the accident, unless the employer was not prejudiced by failure to receive the notice.”  R.S.Mo. § 287.420 (2016).
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How is Accident Defined in the Workers’ Compensation Statutes?

Accident is defined as “an unexpected traumatic event or unusual strain identifiable by time and place of occurrence and producing at the time objective symptoms of an injury caused by a specific event during a single work shift.” R.S.Mo. § 287.020.2 (2016).

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How is an Injury Defined in the Workers’ Compensation Statutes?

Injury is defined under the Workers’ Comp statutes as: “an injury which has arisen out of and in the course of employment” R.S.Mo. § 287.020.3(1) (2016).

The statute goes further by describing when an injury by accident is compensable: “only if the accident was the prevailing factor in causing both the resulting medical condition and disability.” R.S.Mo. § 287.020.3(1) (2016).

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What is an Injury resulting from an Idiopathic Cause?

Idiopathic is defined as an illness or disease in which the cause is uncertain or undetermined.

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Are Injuries resulting from an Idiopathic Cause Compensable?

No.  In fact, Chapter 287 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, Worker’s Compensation Law, has a specific exclusion for injuries resulting from idiopathic causes.  Thus, an injury for which there is no known cause or in which the cause is uncertain would fall under the category of an idiopathic injury and therefore would not qualify as a compensable injury under the Missouri Workers’ Comp Statutes.

The applicable statute plain and simply states: “An injury resulting directly or indirectly from idiopathic causes is not compensable.” R.S.Mo. § 287.020.3(3) (2016).

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When does an injury arise out of the Course and Scope of Employment?

An injury arises out of the course and scope of employment when:

“(a) It is reasonably apparent, upon consideration of all the circumstances, that the accident is the prevailing factor in causing the injury; and

(b) It does not come from a hazard or risk unrelated to the employment to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of and unrelated to the employment in normal nonemployment life.” R.S.Mo. § 287.020.3(2) (2016).

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Are there Special Rules for Reporting Occupational Disease or Repetitive Trauma Claims?

The date differs from an ordinary workplace accident in that the report needs to be made within 30 days from the date that the condition was diagnosed, rather than from the accident date.  R.S.Mo. § 287.420 (2016).

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Notice

What Happens if the Employee Fails to give Timely Notice of the Injury?

In such a case, the Employer can assert a lack of notice defense.  If that happens, the employee has the burden of proving that the lack of notice or delayed notice did not prejudice the employer (or insurance company).

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What are the Reasons for the Workers’ Comp Notice Statutes?

There are several reasons, but the following are the most important:

  1. Give the employer an opportunity to provide medical attention to the employee to mitigate damages;
  2. Expedite the resolution of any workers’ comp claims by prompting the employer to file an injury report with the Division of Workers’ Compensation;
  3. Gives the employer notice so that it can investigate the matter.

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Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim

What is a Formal Claim in the Workers’ Compensation Context?

A formal claim is the document that institutes an employee’s claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. It could be compared to a petition in ordinary civil litigation.

It would be well-advised to seek counsel from an experienced attorney when completing the formal claim as it will serve as the framework of the employee’s workers comp claim.   Additionally, the formal claim could be subpoenaed in collateral proceedings (i.e., against a liable third party).  Thus, a wary attorney will make sure that the claim form is fully completed and that the elements are properly alleged.

A blank sample of the form is available at the Missouri Department of Labor’s website: www.labor.mo.gov/DWC/Forms/WC-21-AI.pdf

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What is the Statute of Limitations on a Workers’ Comp Claim?

Time Limit Triggering Event
2 years within two years after the date of injury or death, or the last payment made under this chapter on account of the injury or death” R.S.Mo. § 287.430 (2016).
3 years “[within three years of injury, death, or last payment] if the report of the injury or the death is not filed by the employer as required by section 287.380” R.S.Mo. § 287.430 (2016).

*The statutes set out a nuance in the triggering event if the workers’ comp claim is for an occupational disease.  See below for more information on the statute of limitations for occupational diseases. 

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Where do I mail a Completed Workers’ Compensation Claim Form in Missouri?

You should mail your completed worker’s comp form and any applicable documentation to the following address:

Division of Worker’s Compensation, P.O. Box 58, Jefferson City, MO 65102

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Is an Employee Required to Submit to a Medical Examination if s/he is making a Work Accident Claim?

Yes, if the employer requests that the employee submit to a medical examination.

“After an employee has received an injury he shall from time to time thereafter during disability submit to reasonable medical examination at the request of the employer, the employer’s insurer, the commission, the division, an administrative law judge or the attorney general…” R.S.Mo. § 287.210 (2016).

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Where does the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Commission hold Oral Arguments?

The oral arguments are held in Jefferson City, Missouri, but the Commission may approve oral argument via video conferencing from Kansas City, Springfield, or St. Louis, Missouri.

See https://molabor.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/283045-where-does-the-commission-hear-oral-arguments

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If I am Seeking a Hardship, Can my Case be Expedited?

Yes.

In fact, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has a specific procedure in place in which they specifically filter out the hardship cases, prepare the transcript expeditiously, and shorten the amount of time it takes to get the case resolved.

See https://molabor.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/283025-how-does-the-commission-expedite-hardship-cases-in for a more specific description of the process of handling expedited worker’s compensation claims.

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Does an Employee have the Right to receive a copy of any Written Statement made by the Employee?

Yes, if the employer wants to use the statement in any hearing or action to recover benefits under Missouri Worker’s Compensation law.

Pursuant to R.S.Mo. § 287.215, the employer must produce the written statement within 30 days of request by the employee, dependents in the case of death, or their attorney. R.S.Mo. § 287.215 (2016).

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Employer Responsibilities

Does my Employer have to report my Work Accident?

Yes.

The employer must report the accident or injury within 30 days after it learns of the same (if the injury requires the employer to provide medical aid beyond basic first-aid treatment).

The applicable statutory language is contained in Missouri Revised Statute section 287.380, and states the following, in pertinent part:

“Every employer or his insurer in this state …shall within thirty days after knowledge of the injury, file with the division…a full and complete report …of every injury or death to any employee for which the employer would be liable to furnish medical aid, other than immediate first aid which does not result in further medical treatment or lost time from work…” R.S.Mo. § 287.380 (2016).

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What does an Employer have to Include in its Workplace Injury Report to the Division of Workers’ Compensation?

All Injury Reports must include:

  • name of person injured,
  • address,
  • date of birth and
  • wages of the deceased or injured employee,
  • the time and cause of the accident,
  • the nature and extent of the injury,
  • the name and address of the employee’s and the employer’s or insurer’s attorney of record (if any)
  • the medical cost incurred in treating the injured employee,
  • the amount of lost work time of the employee as a result of the injury and
  • such other information as the director may require. R.S.Mo. 287.380 (2016).

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How long does an employer have to report a Workplace Injury to its Insurance Company?

An employer has 5 days to report a workplace accident to its insurance company.

The applicable statute states the following, in pertinent part:

“Employers shall report all injuries to their insurance carrier, or third-party administrators, if applicable, within five days of the date of the injury or within five days of the date on which the injury was reported to the employer by the employee, whichever is later.” R.S.Mo. § 287.380 (2016).

If the claim is timely made to the insurer, then the insurer is responsible for preparing the Injury Report to the Division of Workers’ Compensation. R.S.Mo. § 287.380 (2016).

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Settlement Agreements in Workers’ Compensation Context

Can an Employer and Employee enter into a Settlement Agreement in a Worker’s Compensation Case?

Yes. However there are certain conditions that must be satisfied for the settlement agreement to be valid and enforceable:

  1. The administrative law judge must approve the agreement; and
  2. “No such agreement shall be valid unless made after seven days from the date of the injury or death.” R.S.Mo. § 287.390 (2016).

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What are 3 questions an Administrative Law Judge must ask when approving a Settlement Agreement?

  1. Was the settlement the result of undue influence or fraud?
  2. Does the employee fully understand his or her rights and benefits?
  3. Did the employee voluntarily agree to accept the terms of the settlement agreement?

R.S.Mo. § 287.390 (2016).

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Occupational Disease

What is an Occupational Disease?

An occupational disease is defined as: “an identifiable disease arising with or without human fault out of and in the course of the employment.” R.S.Mo. § 287.067.1 (2016).

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What are the elements to prove an Occupational Disease in a Workers’ Comp Claim?

There must be some type of causation between the exposure that occurred on the job and the medical condition and disability.

The applicable statute is R.S.Mo. § 287.067.2 (2016), and the operative language is: “if the occupational exposure was the prevailing factor in causing both the resulting medical condition and disability”

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How is “Prevailing Factor” defined as it pertains to an Occupational Disease in the Workers’ Comp Context?

Prevailing factor is defined as the “primary factor, in relation to any other factor, causing both the resulting medical condition and disability.” R.S.Mo. § 287.067.3 (2016).

The statute further defines prevailing factor by identifying what is not compensable: “Ordinary, gradual deterioration, or progressive degeneration of the body caused by aging or by the normal activities of day-to-day living [does not provide for a valid workers’ comp claim on the basis of an occupational disease].”  R.S.Mo. § 287.067.3 (2016).

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What are some Injuries or Disease that are Compensable under Missouri Workers’ Compensation Statutes?

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Appeals

How does the Missouri Department of Labor Determine the Filing Date of your Appeal?

The filing date is whatever date that is postmarked on the appeal.  If there is no postmark, it is the date that the appeal is received in the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations office.

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How long do I have to Appeal after the Administrative Law Judge’s Award?

After an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) issues a worker’s comp award, you have 20 days to appeal.

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Who Reviews the Appeal of the Administrative Law Judge?

The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission will typically rule on your appeal.

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