Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim After Employment Ends

Work injury claim form

Workers injured on the job may be able to file a workers' compensation claim after they quit or have lost their job. To be successful, injured workers must have sufficient evidence proving that the job was responsible for their current medical condition, however.

Why Former Employees Might File a Workers' Compensation Claim Against Previous Employers

Workers may file a workers' comp claim against a previous employer for a couple of reasons.

A worker may file a post-employment work injury claim if he or she sustained an injury that appeared to be minor at first but later developed into a more serious condition warranting medical treatment. For instance, an employee may sustain a head injury in a work accident that seems superficial, only to have serious pain and cognitive difficulties develop later.

In other cases, workers may suffer from chronic conditions such as cumulative injuries or occupational diseases that result from the previous job. An example of this could be back pain resulting from repetitive strain on the job, for which a medical professional recommended treatment. Due to the slow development of cumulative injuries, symptoms may not become apparent until after the worker has left his or her job.

The type of injury and other factors may make it difficult to seek compensation for it after employment ends.

Statutes of Limitations to File for Workers' Compensation

Iowa sets deadlines for workers to file workers' comp claims. These limits apply regardless of whether the employee is still employed, unemployed, or starting a new job at the time of filing. Work injury claims that are filed after the deadline will likely be denied.

While there are exceptions, employees in the state have just 90 days to report their injuries or exposures to their employer in most cases. When an employee experiences a delayed onset of symptoms, the worker has 90 days from the time he or she knew about, or should have known about, the condition.

Workers' compensation attorneys generally recommend that victims notify their employers of workplace accidents and injuries as soon as possible, however. When injured workers delay reporting their injuries or getting medical treatment, they can give the impression to the insurance company that the injury was not serious. 

Challenges of Proving The Injuries Resulted from Previous Work

Work injury claims against former employers aren't always easy to prove. To prove a previous job was responsible for one-time or cumulative injuries, workers must provide solid medical evidence. This evidence must show how the injury developed while the worker was performing previous job duties. Insurers are often more likely to deny claims against former employers. This is because some workers who file claims against former employers do so solely as a form of revenge against the company. 

Insurance companies may also try to lower payouts or deny work injury claims by claiming that post-employment conditions contributed to the injury and subsequent treatment. 

Despite these challenges, workers can still recover compensation if they have enough evidence to support their claim. One initial step to take is for injured employees to notify the previous employer of the injury immediately and request information about how to file a claim. The employer may designate a specific healthcare provider to treat injuries. A medical professional can then properly diagnose and recommend treatment for the injury, putting the victim on the path to recovery, while providing evidence in the form of medical records.

Many injured workers hire work injury lawyers to help them file claims against former employers. A workers' comp attorney can negotiate with insurance companies and assist victims with collecting evidence. In some cases, workers' compensation lawyers can also help victims seek a second opinion from another medical professional, which may further strengthen their case. Workers' compensation lawyers also help their clients prepare for their meetings with the workers' compensation doctor.

How to File for Workers' Compensation

If a worker sustains a work-related injury at a previous job, he or she may still have the chance to file a claim against the previous employer if the employee follows the proper steps. This includes:

  • Reporting the injury or illness to the employer as soon as it is discovered
  • Seeking medical attention to verify the cause of the injury or illness
  • Gathering medical records and billing statements that document the diagnosis, treatments, and prognosis
  • Communicating with their workers' comp attorney about updates in their condition
  • Collecting evidence that demonstrates how and when the injury occurred (including statements from coworkers that may have noticed the unsafe conditions or seen the accident happen)

If a claim has enough evidence and workers file a work injury claim within the timeframe set by Iowa workers' compensation laws, they are more likely to be successful. Claimants may be eligible to recover compensation to pay for medical bills and a portion of their lost wages.

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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.