Understanding Workers’ Compensation Settlements for Back Injury Claims

Understanding Workers’ Compensation Settlements for Back Injury Claims
Every year, back injuries plague thousands of American workers. Back injuries can encompass a wide range of problems, and there are many management options available depending on the type and severity of injury. For many, a simple course of treatment will resolve the issue, so the employee can get back to work. For others, however, a back injury can be a persistent and painful problem that can prevent them from working and may not ever fully heal. In these cases, Iowa workers’ compensation settlements for back injury claims can help ensure the security and success of permanently injured employees. Learn more about the benefit options here.

Back Injuries Are Common Across Many Iowa Industries

Back injuries are one of the leading causes of workers’ compensation claims across the country. These injuries fall under the category of musculoskeletal disorders, which accounted for nearly one-third of all work-related injuries in 2015. Back injuries occurred in nearly every area of the workforce—from office buildings to construction sites. While many people assume a back problem is the result of a specific incident, they can also be caused over time by small repetitive movements, reaching overhead, remaining in the same position for too long, or simple bending. For many injured workers, medications, rehabilitation, or surgery may help relieve the symptoms and offer a chance at recovery. In some cases, however, medical interventions cannot offer a return to complete health. For these Iowa workers, persistent symptoms can prevent them from working or working in the same capacity as before the injury. These symptoms can include:
  • Pain
  • Limited movement
  • Stiffness

What Are the Average Workers' Compensation Settlements for  Back Injury Claims?

If you sustain a compensable workers’ compensation back injury, you are essentially entitled to three different types of benefits.
  • Medical Expenses. The employer would have to pay for your medical care relating to the back injury, whether it be treatment with an orthopedic surgeon, physical therapy, medications, or treatment with a workers' compensation doctor. Any and all medical care related to the work-related back injury would be the responsibility of the employer. In addition to medical expenses, they would be required to pay mileage for trips to and from the doctors and therapy.
  • Healing Period Benefits/Temporary Total Disability Benefits. The second thing you would be entitled to for an Iowa workers’ compensation back injury would be healing period benefits or temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. These would be benefits that would be payable to you if you are unable to work as a result of your work-related injury. You would receive a weekly benefit for each week you were off of work as a result of the back injury. The benefits are roughly two-thirds your gross wage, as they are non-taxable.
  • Permanency Benefits. The third thing you would be entitled to if you sustained a back injury from work in Iowa would be permanency benefits. These permanency benefits may be based upon a permanent impairment rating you receive from your doctor at the end of your care, or may be more related to how the permanent back injury affects your long-term ability to work.
The distinction as to which of these benefits you may be entitled to depends on whether you’ve been able to return to work earning the same or similar wage, or whether you have not been successful in your return to work.

Workers’ Compensation Permanent Disability Benefits Can Be Available

The Iowa workers’ compensation system recognizes that workers can and do experience permanent injuries, and it offers different types of benefits to address different types of injuries. The two main types of benefits for permanent injuries are:
  • Permanent Total Disability: benefits for an employee whose injury leaves her incapable of ever returning to employment.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: benefits for an employee who experiences a permanent injury but is capable of working in some capacity.
Iowa offers some of the most generous compensation benefits in the country, and both these types of benefits pay 80 percent of the worker’s spendable weekly earnings, up to a set maximum. Once it has been determined that the worker has reached maximum recovery for his injury, the extent of the injury will be examined. The severity of the injury—whether it is complete or partial—will determine the type and amount of compensation that a worker can obtain. This will also affect how long the benefits will be paid.

Benefits for Permanent Partial Disability Injuries in Iowa

While some injuries are permanent, it is also true that they do not completely hinder a worker’s ability to maintain employment. In those cases, the compensation is determined differently. Once maximum recovery has been reached, a doctor will decide an impairment rating, which is a percentage equal to the degree of impairment. Compensation will be equal to that rating. This means that if a doctor determines that a worker’s impairment rating is 50 percent, he would be entitled to half of the maximum weeks of pay for that injury. Back injuries in Iowa are typically payable up to 500 weeks. So, in this example, the worker would be entitled to 80 percent of his average spendable earnings for 250 weeks. This medical exam and rating are very important, as they determine how long an employee can receive benefits for a partial disability. Every injury is different, and an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help injured employees obtain the maximum benefit.

Healing Period Benefits Can Provide Compensation During Recovery

For those who suffer a permanent partial disability, healing period benefits are also available. These benefits are offered during the recovery period. These benefits also pay 80 percent of the spendable weekly earnings. There is no set time frame for healing period benefits. Once maximum recovery has been reached, the healing period would end and PPD benefits would begin. Thus, it is possible to obtain compensation for longer than just the number of weeks set by the PPD schedule.

Benefits for Permanent Total Disability Injuries in Iowa

If it is determined that the injured worker has a permanent total disability, he would be entitled to receive compensation for the length of the disability. This could mean a period of months or years, or for life. Total disabilities do not have to adhere to the set maximum of 500 weeks. Every injury and situation is different, even those that affect the same body part. If you have suffered a work-related back injury in Iowa, you may be eligible for compensation—but it is very difficult to calculate the level of benefits you deserve. The experienced workers’ compensation team at the Pothitakis Law Firm can help you learn more about your rights and obtain the maximum award for your injuries through a workers' compensation back injury claim. Call us today at (866) 753-4692 to schedule a free consultation.
Photo of Niko Pothitakis
For the past 15 years Mr. Pothitakis has focused his practice on Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Cases. The firm has two locations, one being in Burlington, Iowa and the other in Keokuk, Iowa. Mr. Pothitakis works with many area unions and employee organizations to provide advice, assistance, and guidance as it relates to employment issues. Mr. Pothitakis provides free consultations to those with legal questions in the firm's areas of practice. In this initial meeting or conference potential clients are provided advice on their need for assistance and how they need to proceed.