Missouri Tort Victims Receive Millions from Workers’ Comp Division

July 17, 2009

The Missouri Labor Department’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) recently announced it has issued more than $2.4 million from the Tort Victims’ Compensation Fund to 62 tort victims who filed claims in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Tort victims are individuals who have received little to no compensation after suffering injuries from others (such as in a motor vehicle collision or a hunting accident), who were uninsured or did not have adequate insurance.

“In many cases, tort victims are awarded damages that a jury finds appropriate. However, in many instances, little or none of those damages are actually collected,” says Department Director Larry Rebman. “The money sent out to these claimants from the Fund will help them pay medical bills and take care of some of their expenses.”

The Tort Victims’ Compensation Fund is solely generated by a portion of monies paid as punitive damages in civil lawsuits in Missouri. A recent case resulted in a large amount of damages awarded which was then placed into the Fund. Until this recent deposit, the Fund had enough from its share of punitive damages judgments to be able to pay claims up to 2005. This distribution is the largest since the Fund began accepting claims in 2001, with the largest payout of 21.1 cents on the dollar. The average payout is 8.05 cents on the dollar.

A woman from Independence, Mo., filed a claim against the Fund in 2008 after receiving very little compensation for an injury inflicted on her in 2007 when another driver made a U-turn without warning. The ensuing collision fractured her pelvis and right femur, leaving the 26 year-old unable to work and support herself. She received $75K in insurance, much of which went to pay medical bills and attorney’s fees. Earning more than $50K a year prior to the accident, the woman now collects less than $1,000 per month from social security disability. As a result of these payouts, she will receive $63K from the Fund.

The Missouri Tort Victims’ Compensation Fund was created by the legislature in 1987. However, the means for tort victims to receive money from the Fund was not established until 2001, after the General Assembly enacted legislation. Since the inception of the Fund, 503 tort victims have received over $8.7 million. The one-time only payments the recent claimants will receive from the Fund range from $3,231.46 – $63,304.71.

Source: Missouri Department of Labor, www.labor.mo.gov

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