The stated intent of Missouri’s Senate Bill 8 is to restore the original purpose of the state’s workers compensation statutes, which was to make workers compensation the exclusive remedy for injuries that occur in the workplace. States enacted workers compensation laws early in the 20th century to help both workers and employers. After workers compensation laws were enacted, workers could be compensated for injuries without having to fight protracted court battles in which they were required to prove negligence or fault. A worker needed to prove only that he or she was injured in the course of his or her employment. Failure to prove negligence meant that an injured worker would not be compensated for medical expenses and time lost from work, and often meant that they would not have a source of income if their injuries left them unable to work. Workers compensation laws helped employers by protecting them from ruinous lawsuits when workers were injured on the job. Compensating injured workers through an insurance program made the costs of doing so predictable and manageable.
A ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court threatened to remove workers compensation as the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries. The court ruled that a worker injured on the job could sue another worker who was responsible for the first worker’s injuries. Missouri Senate Bill 8 makes the language of the state’s workers compensation more specific so that workers cannot hold other employees liable for their injuries unless the injuries were caused intentionally. This benefits employees who otherwise would have been at risk of being sued by their coworkers. It also benefits employers who otherwise would face complications arising from shared liability with employees who may be involved in the injuries of other employees in cities like St Louis. Injury lawyer representation might be necessary.
One significant disadvantage of SB 8 for employers is that it eliminates subrogation for occupational disease claims. Workers compensation remains the exclusive remedy for occupational disease claims, but employers would not be able to recoup any of the costs of paying occupational disease claims from the manufacturers or suppliers of toxic materials, or any other third party personal injury lawyer. St Louis has much to think about.