Employees have the right to a safe work environment. In the event of a workplace accident, victims have the lawful right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Niko Pothitakis has dedicated his career as an injury lawyer to helping injured Iowa workers fight for their right to fair compensation. Pothitakis Law Firm seeks to level the playing field between injured workers and insurance adjusters by providing an experienced attorney. When employees are hurt on the job, they have a right to seek compensation for medical treatment, medications and equipment, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one has sustained a job injury, a workers’ compensation lawyer at Pothitakis Law Firm can help. Call 319-754-6400.
Traumatic injuries, or injuries that occur as a result of an accident, and cumulative injuries, or those that occur over time, are covered under Iowa workers’ compensation laws. Though a variety of injuries can happen in the workplace, some accidents and injuries are more commonly seen by injury lawyers than others. Frequent causes of traumatic workplace injuries are:
In some cases, an injury occurs over an extended period of time. Common causes of cumulative workplace injuries seen by workers’ compensation lawyers include:
Accidents and injuries can occur in any industry. However, workplace injuries are especially seen by workers’ compensation lawyers in industries that place employees at elevated exposure to hazards. Individuals working in the construction, auto mechanic, manufacturing, welding, trucking, transportation, and agriculture industries are particularly vulnerable to workplace accidents. In addition, those employed by the cosmetology industry are at an increased risk of chemical exposures that lead to deadly cancers. Firefighters, police officers, and first responders are often placed in situations with increased workplace hazards.
Workers who are injured in Iowa have deadlines they are required to meet when seeking compensation. There is a 90-day window within which a victim must report an injury to his or her employer. It is best to report workplace injuries immediately and in writing, maintaining a personal copy of written accident reports. Missing the 90-day deadline may result in a victim’s workers’ compensation benefits being denied. If benefits are denied, an experienced attorney can help to fight the denial.
In addition to the 90-day initial deadline, workers seeking to pursue a claim against their employer must do so within the 2-year statute of limitations. The clock begins running on the date of the injury, or the date the injury was realized. For workers receiving weekly benefits, the statute of limitations is extended to 3 years following the date of the final benefit check. Payment for medical treatment is not included as a benefit and does not extend the statute of limitations.
In some cases, circumstances surrounding the accident and claim may allow for an extension of the deadlines. If an employee does not realize the seriousness of an injury, or the injury is cumulative in nature, a claim may still be valid outside of the 90-day deadline. A thorough workers’ compensation attorney can help victims navigate deadlines and determine if a claim is still valid outside of the traditional statute of limitations.
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Injured workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits covering all aspects of the financial impact of the injury. The impacts may include medical treatment costs, covered by medical benefits; lost wages, covered by wage replacement benefits; and the acquiring of a disability and its effect on future working ability, covered under permanency benefits. Insurance companies operate with the goal of paying as little as possible to claimants. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help a claimant fight for fair compensation instead of settling for a minimum payout.
Employers and their insurance providers are required to pay for medical costs associated with an employee’s injury. An employer may select a specific care provider but must cover all costs for initial treatment, check-ups, prescriptions, physical therapy, medical equipment, long term care, and mileage traveling to and from medical appointments. If an employee is unhappy with the medical care providers chosen, there are ways to seek a change in care.
When a victim has to miss work due to an injury sustained on the job, he or she is entitled to benefits that cover lost wages. These wages are paid out as a non-taxable, approximation of take-home pay. Employees who are placed on reduced hours or who have lowered working capacity are entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. These disability benefits make up the difference between an individual’s previous earnings and new, lower earnings that result from the impact of the injury.
Permanency benefits are paid out in situations where a victim’s injury causes permanent disabilities or reduces future working capacity permanently. Referred to as “permanent partial disability benefits,” these benefits are paid out based on the severity of the injury and its degree of impact on the victim’s earning capacity. Typically, these benefits result after filing a workers’ compensation claim for permanent disabilities from a job injury.
The amount of disability benefits an injured worker is entitled to is determined using impairment ratings. The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Impairment is a typical resource used to determine a victim’s rating. A rating can, however, be impacted by other determining factors.
Disability benefits are also determined based on the body part affected by the injury. Each body part is assigned a value in weeks. For permanent disabilities with a total loss of use or loss of the affected body part, the maximum amount of weeks is used. For an impairment that is less than 100%, the percentage of impairment is multiplied by the maximum amount of weeks, yielding the percentage of weeks to be paid out.
For workplace injuries that lead to total body loss of ability, such as head or neck injuries, benefit calculations depend on future earning capacity. Industrial permanent disabilities such as these require factors such as a worker’s age, impairment rating, education, job qualifications, experience in the field, the degree of effect on a worker’s abilities, and past work history. These injuries often require the help of an experienced attorney to navigate the claims process.
Injury accidents place an extensive financial strain on victims. When an employer or its insurance company delays the payment of benefits to injured employees, they can be held accountable for unreasonable delays. Injured employees who are entitled to weekly payments to replace lost wages and are denied payments in a timely manner may seek penalty benefits. The insurance company must then pay the delayed benefit amount, as well as an additional 50% of that amount in the form of a penalty. An Iowa workers’ compensation attorney can help claimants fight to receive benefits in a timely manner and hold employers accountable for the delay.
For workers who had an existing injury or condition prior to sustaining the workplace injury, the second-injury fund may provide benefits. These benefits are provided by the State of Iowa. The initial or previous injury does not have to be a workplace injury. A second-injury benefit claim considers how the initial injury or degree of injury, when combined with the new injury or degree of injury, impacts a victim’s work capacity.
Exacerbation of a preexisting condition is treated as a new injury. Testimony of a medical provider can determine the degree of impact a workplace injury has had on a preexisting condition. Documentation of the evaluation process can aid victims when filing for benefits or making a workers’ compensation claim, as an insurance company will often try to misrepresent the severity of a job injury based on preexisting injuries. An experienced attorney will fight this claim and seek fair compensation.
While an employer is authorized by law to choose an injured employee’s medical care provider, there are stipulations surrounding that provision that protect victims. An employer must choose a physician or care provider promptly. This provider must be qualified to treat the type of job injury the victim sustained and must be able to provide care without unreasonable hardship to the victim. When employers or insurance companies violate these standards, they are required to choose a different healthcare provider. An injured employee still maintains the right to a second opinion under these requirements. A second opinion may be preferred if a victim feels that an impairment rating is too low.
In some cases, a chosen physician may appear to be influenced by the insurance company or employer. A victim is able to choose instead to see his or her primary care physician for treatment. This may not be covered by personal medical insurance, however, as many personal insurance policies do not cover workplace injuries. If a victim is uncertain about needing a second opinion or feels that the provided physician is influenced by an insurance company, he or she should seek the advice of an Iowa workers’ compensation attorney.
A spouse is entitled to benefits if his or her employed partner passes away from a workplace accident. In cases of wrongful death, the surviving partner will receive death benefits for the remainder of his or her life, unless he or she remarries. In the event of a remarriage, a surviving spouse is entitled to an additional 2 years of death benefit payments following the marriage.
In addition to spouses, surviving children are entitled to death benefits. A child may receive death benefits on behalf of a deceased parent until he or she reaches the age of 18. The benefits are extended if the child is considered dependent past the age of 18. Additionally, death benefits continue until the age of 25 if a child enrolls in college. Benefit amounts issued per dependent are determined by the number of dependents vs. the payout provided.
Medical and burial expenses that result from the workplace accident are also the responsibility of the employer. An experienced attorney can help dependents seek compensation following the death of a loved one from a job injury.
In smaller cases where employers pay a fair amount of benefits in a timely manner, and the injury only had temporary consequences, a workers’ comp lawyer may not be necessary. However, as cases quickly become more complex, whether due to the nature of the injury or the actions of the employer, seeking legal representation may be in the best interest of the employee.
For cases involving delayed payments, negligent actions on the part of the employer, unfair settlement amounts offered by insurance companies, or low impairment ratings, an attorney is necessary to help victims receive fair compensation. This is also true in cases of permanent disabilities and wrongful death, as several aspects of the workers’ compensation claim become more complicated. As an Iowa workers’ compensation lawyer, Pothitakis Law Firm can help victims level the playing field between themselves and their employers during the workers’ compensation claim process.
In order to help produce a successful workers’ compensation claim, an employee should report the injury immediately and seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is vital that a victim keep a clear record of wages lost, medical costs, and accident reports to ensure that all bases are covered. Injured workers should be sure to follow through with all treatment plans, as ending treatment prematurely can misrepresent the seriousness of the injury. Seeking the help of a workplace injury lawyer through Pothitakis Law Firm can improve the outcome of a claim.