Although we might try to avoid an on-the-job injury, accidents can happen any time. Unfortunately, you might be the one suffering for that accident. Now, you’re injured, unable to work, and the whole ordeal is putting a financial strain on both you and your family.

You’re in a difficult situation, but our attorneys at Pothitakis Law Firm, PC can help. If you’re struggling to secure your workers’ comp or form an appeal after your claim was denied, reach out to a Des Moines work accident lawyer. We can focus on your claim while you focus on recovery.

Benefits After a Work Accident

When you’ve been injured at work, the aftermath can be expensive and lengthy. Fortunately, most Iowa workers should be eligible for certain benefits to help them recover from their accidents.

If you’ve been injured at work, you should be entitled to the following benefits:

  • Medical Benefits – Whether you will need a brief doctor’s visit, or extended care and future surgeries, all medical care should be covered. If the expense was incurred during the course of your recovery, your work comp benefits should kick in to cover it.
  • Partial Disability Benefits – If you’ve been injured but are able to return to work in some capacity, you should still receive a portion of these benefits. You’ll likely receive two-thirds of the difference between your original wages and the new light-duty position to make up for the change.
  • Total Disability Benefits – In some cases, you might be completely unable to work. In this case, you’ll receive a percentage of your original wages until you can return to work or are able to retire.

 

The Work Comp Claims Process

The process for obtaining your work comp claim benefits isn’t always easy, but certain Iowa laws were enacted to streamline the process as much as possible.

First, you’ll need to notify your employer within 90 days of the accident. If you don’t act in time, you could be putting your compensation at risk. After you’ve filed an injury report with your employer, the process is out of your hands.

Your employer must file your claim with the insurer, who will assess your claim and send you a denial or approval letter with your benefits information. If your employer fails to notify the insurer, they could face serious consequences. An experienced work comp lawyer in Des Moines can answer any additional questions you have, or they can help you prepare an appeal if you have already been denied.

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Combat a Denial with a Des Moines Work Accident Attorney

Unfortunately, you might already be looking at a work comp denial letter. A small mistake can leave you holding the full bill for your pain and suffering. That doesn’t mean you have to manage your claim alone.

Meet with a lawyer from the Pothitakis Law Firm, PC about your claim, starting with a free consultation. You have a right to appeal your claim, and a lawyer can give you the best chance to achieve a positive outcome.

When you need benefits following a work injury, reach out to a Des Moines work accident lawyer. Our attorneys can be reached by calling 319-754-6400 or by completing the online form below.

Can I Be Terminated For Seeking Iowa Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

An Iowa employer may not terminate or discriminate against an employee for seeking Workers’ Compensation benefits under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act. A discharge based upon retaliation for seeking Workers’ Compensation benefits is considered against Iowa Public Policy. Springer v. Weeks & Leo Co., 429 N.W.2d 558 (Iowa 1988). Termination and retaliation for someone seeking Workers’ Compensation benefits can result in significant damages being owed by the employer to the employee, including lost wages.

For an injury to be covered under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws, does it have to be one traumatic incident or can it occur over time?

In Iowa, traumatic injuries as well as what are called cumulative injuries are covered under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act. Many injuries occur as a result of repetitive activities or injuries that occur over time. As long as the injury is related to the work activities, then Iowa Workers’ Compensation benefits should be provided.

Many workers in Iowa sustain disabling injuries as a result of repetitive lifting, bending, twisting, etc. The fact that one specific event does not cause the injury does not preclude their entitlement to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits, including medical care and weekly Workers’ Compensation checks. In fact, many very serious injuries occur gradually as opposed to from one specific event. Both traumatic and cumulative injuries are treated the same under Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws. If your injury comes on gradually, it is important to report it as soon as you believe it’s a more serious condition. Cumulative-type injuries, or gradual injuries, are hotly contested Iowa Workers’ Compensation claims and for that reason, it may be beneficial to speak with an experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation attorney. There are deadlines that have to be met whether the injury is cumulative (gradual) or in one specific incident.

What benefits does my family receive if my death is from a work related injury?

In Iowa, family members are entitled to death benefits if an employee’s death is a result of a work-related injury under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws. A surviving spouse is entitled to benefits for the remainder of her life or if she remarries, for an additional 2 years after that remarriage. Children are entitled to benefits to the age of 18 unless they are actually dependent beyond the age of 18 and then those benefits can continue under certain circumstances. If a child is in college, they can receive benefits up to the age of 25. Physically or mentally incapacitated children can receive benefits for the time they remain physically or mentally incapacitated. Depending upon the number of dependents (spouse and children), the Workers’ Compensation benefit would be split in some fashion.

In addition to weekly benefits for the decedent’s family, employers are responsible for burial expenses and medical expenses as a result of the injury and death. (Iowa Code Section 85.28 and Iowa Code Section 85.31.)

If there are no dependents then the only benefits that are provided are medical expenses caused as a result of the work injury and burial expenses. (Iowa Code Section 85.29.)

How are back injuries compensated under the Iowa Workers’ Comp laws?

When you injure your low back, middle back, or in fact any portion of your back while working you are entitled to benefits under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws. Low back injuries are significant in the Iowa work comp system because back limitations can have a drastic effect on a person’s ability to work. The effect an Iowa work comp injury has on your ability to work is the primary driver of the amount of money the system will pay for a work-related injury. If an employee sustains a permanent back injury they are entitled to benefits based on how the back injury affects their ability to work and earn money. These benefits are called “industrial disability benefits.” Ultimately there is a determination of how the injury affects your ability to work in percentage terms. If you lose 50 percent of your ability to work you would be entitled to 50 percent of 500 weeks (amount set by law) or 250 weeks of Workers’ Compensation benefits for the injury. Back injuries are frequently pursued under the Iowa work comp system as there are a significant amount of employment positions that are precluded for persons with permanent low back injuries and limitations.

I am traveling to and from doctor and physical therapy appointments a couple times a week. Gas expenses are killing me. Is there anything I can do?

You are entitled to be reimbursed for mileage to and from your medical appointments under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws. Currently, the rate of reimbursement per mile is 57.5 cents. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Insurance carrier should have told you that you are entitled to be paid mileage and actually paid you this rate. In my experience, it is typical for Iowa Work Comp insurance companies to ignore this obligation to reimburse for mileage expenses. It is not up to them whether to pay for mileage or not. They are required by law to provide this money to you for an accepted Iowa Workers’ Compensation claim. Several of my clients who have sustained work-related injuries are financially in a very difficult position, and the failure to pay mileage only further compounds the problems. You must carefully keep track of your mileage for all trips related to your work injury medical care so that you can submit them and be paid. You may need to seek assistance from a Workers’ Compensation lawyer, such as Pothitakis Law Firm, P.C., if you find that the Iowa Workers’ Compensation carrier does not pay for mileage expenses in a timely manner. We provide free initial consultation to discuss this and any other worker compensation problems.

I read about being entitled to penalty benefits if the Workers’ Compensation carrier does not pay me my Iowa Workers’ Compensation benefits in a timely manner. Is this true?

Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws an insurance carrier is required to provide Iowa work comp benefits in a timely manner. They cannot simply wait and delay for the sake of delay. It is shocking how often insurance companies fail to abide by their obligation and pay benefits when due. When an employee is off work as a result of an Iowa work-related injury, the employee is entitled to weekly Workers’ Compensation benefits in place of the wages that are not being paid. These benefits are to be paid in a timely manner under Iowa law. My office spends a considerable amount of time tracking down these late benefits. Penalty benefits can be obtained for the failure to pay benefits when due. A penalty benefit can be paid when benefits are unreasonably delayed and this penalty can be up to 50 percent of the amount unreasonably delayed. For example, if a $500 check is unreasonably delayed, the employee may be entitled to an additional $250 from the insurance carrier. Any delay, even small can be devastating to an injured employee and his or her family. The amount of penalty that could be awarded can be a complicated matter and for this reason, it is helpful to speak to an experienced Iowa Work Injury Attorney, like the Pothitakis Law Firm, P.C.

I was injured at work and my employer is telling me to use my health insurance for my Iowa Workers’ Comp injury. Is this correct?

It really depends on whether your employer and the insurance carrier are accepting or denying that you have a work injury. Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws the employer and Iowa Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier are required to provide medical care for work-related Iowa injuries. For claims that they accept, they are allowed to direct care and choose the doctor, but they also have to pay for the medical care expenses. You should not use your health insurance if the Iowa work comp claim is being accepted. In fact, your health insurance may ultimately deny the charges as some health insurance policies do not provide coverage for work-related conditions. If the claim is not being accepted by the Iowa Workers’ Comp carrier, then you would need to use your health insurance for your medical care. In this situation (denied claim) the law requires your health insurance to process your medical expenses under the policy terms. Determining whether the claim is accepted or denied can be difficult and for this reason, it is important to talk to an experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation lawyer. Most Workers’ Compensation attorneys, such as the Pothitakis Law Firm, P.C. provide a free initial consultation to discuss your issues.

If I do not realize I have an injury until several months after the injury occurred, is it too late for me to report and file the claim?

Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws, you are required to 1) report your injury within ninety days of the date of its occurrence and 2) file the claim within two years of the date of the injury (or three years if you receive weekly Workers’ Compensation benefits). These are the two deadlines you have to meet in order to pursue a successful Workers’ Compensation claim.

In certain situations, the 90-day deadline and the two-year deadline can be extended. If you do not recognize the nature, seriousness, and probable compensable character of the injury, you may be able to extend the deadlines. An example would be if you have some aches and pains that you don’t report because you suspect they will get better. If they do not get better after several months, then they still may be able to pursue a viable claim. The argument is that you didn’t think the aches and pains were serious until they continued for several months. It is always risky to wait on the reporting or filing of a claim and for this reason, you should take action promptly.

Because of the complexity of these deadlines, it is important to speak to an experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney. Many will offer a free initial consultation similar to Pothitakis Law Firm, P.C.

Do I need a lawyer to help me with a Workers’ Compensation claim?

With respect to many Iowa Workers’ Compensation claims, you may not need to retain the services of an attorney. However, there are situations in which you would be better served by obtaining some assistance or guidance from an experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation attorney.

With respect to injuries to your neck, back, shoulder, or hip, one benefit under Iowa law that you would be entitled to be called industrial disability benefits. These benefits are paid based upon how your injury affects your ability to work and earn money after the Iowa work injury. There is a multitude of factors that go into the analysis of your entitlement to this type of benefit under the Iowa work comp system, such as your age, education, past work history, restrictions, and impairment rating. These are only some of the many factors that are reviewed to assess how much money you are entitled to receive. The weight and effect that each of these factors has on how much money you receive under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws are very complex issues and an attorney will likely be able to assist you.

Iowa Workers’ Compensation cases in which an employee’s injury does not result in a permanent injury are the types of cases where an employee may not need to seek the services of an attorney. The best course of action for an injured Iowa employee would be to contact an attorney who handles Iowa Workers’ Compensation claims to discuss whether an attorney’s services are necessary. Many Workers’ Compensation attorneys provide a free initial consultation similar to what is offered at Pothitakis Law Firm, P.C., where those issues can be discussed in greater detail.

If I experience a work related injury, who makes the decision regarding what doctor I will see?

In accordance with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws for an injury that is acknowledged by your employer as related to your work activities, the employer and Iowa Workers’ Compensation insurance company are allowed to decide what physician you will see. Their right to decide which physician has some limitations. The medical treatment that is chosen by the employer is required to be reasonable, prompt, and reasonably appropriate to treat the condition without unwarranted inconvenience to the worker. In cases that the employer or Iowa Work Comp insurance company choose doctors who are either unqualified or who are located very far from the worker’s residence, there is the possibility that the worker may force the employer and insurance carrier to find a different doctor to treat them.
One more instance where the worker may have a choice of treatment is when the worker has the legal right in Iowa to a second opinion. Under the law, the Iowa Workers’ Comp Insurance carrier must pay for a second opinion when:

  1. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation claim is accepted;
  2. An impairment rating has been given by the Iowa Work Comp insurance carrier’s physician;
  3. The injured employee deems the impairment rating as too low.

These kinds of questions need to be answered by an attorney who has considerable experience in Iowa Workers’ Compensation law.

Does my employer in Iowa have to comply with my work-related injury restrictions?

If you are injured at work and put under restrictions by your physician, the employer either has to provide you work within those restrictions or allow you to stay home and receive weekly Iowa Workers’ Compensation benefits. In many cases, the employer may ask you to come to work to perform light duty work under the restrictions after your Iowa work injury. If this is the case, you are either entitled to similar pay as to what you were making prior to your injury or your paycheck plus an additional check from the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier to make up the difference. These are called temporary partial disability benefits. If your restrictions are ultimately put in place as permanent restrictions, the employer then has to make a decision as to whether they can comply with your restrictions. The Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities may provide you some protection against losing your job.

Return to work issues after a work-related injury is a very complex issue. For this reason, it’s important to talk with a Workers’ Compensation attorney concerning these issues to make sure your rights are protected.

Does an injury at work in Iowa have to be pursued through the Iowa Workers’ Compensation system?

If you sustain an injury that is covered under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation system, you are subject to jurisdiction before the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. Most Iowa work injuries would be subject to the Iowa Work Comp System. There are some injuries that are not covered. If your injury is covered, you are entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits under the law and cannot, in most cases, pursue a claim outside of the Iowa Workers’ Compensation system. It is always important to talk to an Iowa Workers’ Compensation lawyer to determine the specifics of whether your claim is covered. (Iowa Code Section 85.1)

What time deadlines do I need to meet if I am injured in an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Injury?

If you are injured on the job, you need to meet two deadlines. First, you need to provide notice to your employer within 90 days of the date of your Iowa work injury. Second, you need to file the claim within 2 years of the date of the injury or 3 years from the date of your last weekly Workers’ Compensation benefit, whichever is later. You may be able to extend these deadlines if you do not know the seriousness or compensable character of your injury until a later date.

Can I still seek Iowa Workers’ Compensation if I had previous back issues and my Iowa work injury worsened my back problems?

In accordance with Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws, a deterioration of a pre-existing physical problem will be considered a new Iowa work injury. You will still qualify for Iowa Workers’ Compensation benefits if your Iowa work injury worsens your prior problem in regards to pain, severity, or frequency. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation insurance company and your employer might try to dispute that your present injury is linked to your previous condition. However, the medical testimony can usually validate changes/worsening of your condition due to an Iowa work comp injury. This is true regardless of the pre-existing condition was due to work or not.

The medical proof that needs to be founded is that your Iowa work injury worsened your previous problem in creating disability.

Therefore, if you experience any kind of Iowa Workers’ Compensation aggravation injury, or if your condition worsens due to work activity, it is extremely important that you report it to your employer so that it can be reviewed. In these scenarios, it may be advisable to consult with a professional Iowa Workers’ Compensation lawyer.

Am I entitled to Iowa Workers’ Comp benefits if my injury came on gradually at work due to my work activities, instead of one particular work incident?

Iowa Workers’ Compensation injuries can be categorized as traumatic occurrences or what we refer to as “cumulative injuries.” Cumulative injuries are Iowa work injuries that progress gradually due to activity at the workplace. Traumatic injuries and cumulative injuries are both eligible for compensation in accordance with Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws.

In several situations, your employer and the Iowa Work Comp Insurance company attempt to disprove the cumulative injury claims. When you have a physical condition that you deem as being work-related, it is necessary that you bring this to your doctor’s attention at the time of your appointment. Also, it is necessary to tell your employer that this condition could be work-related.

You need to fill out an accident form or an incident report from your place of work. This provides notice to the employer of your possible Iowa Workers’ Comp injury claim. Your right to Iowa Workers’ Compensation benefits would be influenced by whether the physicians determine that your work injury was caused or aggravated by your Iowa work activities.

What benefits am I entitled to receive if I sustain an injury at work?

If you are injured at work in Iowa, you essentially are entitled to three different types of benefits, Medical Benefits, Wage Replacement Benefits, and Permanency Benefits.

  1. The first type of benefit that you are entitled to is to have your medical expenses paid for medical care received as a result of the work injury. The employer has the right to choose your physician, but they are required to pay for your medical care. In addition, they should pay you the cost of gas and use of your vehicle to get you to and from your doctor (mileage expense).
  2. The second benefit you are entitled to is wage replacement benefits if you have to be off work as a result of your injury. Each week that you are off of work as a result of your work injury, you are entitled to receive a check which approximates your take-home pay. The reason it “approximates” your take home pay is because it is non-taxable.
  3. The final benefit you are entitled to receive is what is called permanent partial disability benefits. These are benefits that are paid based upon the severity of your injury and, in some cases, based upon how it affects your earnings in the future. This is the benefit that is typically discussed for purposes of a settlement of a Workers’ Compensation claim.

There are other benefits that you are entitled to if you are injured at work and an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can provide you guidance concerning those additional benefits.

What are some of the things I need to be careful of when dealing with a Workers’ Compensation claim?
  1. Always understand the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier is not on your side. Their job is to resolve the claim in an efficient and as cost-effective manner as possible paying you less than the full value of the claim is more efficient and cost-effective.
  2. The amount they pay on a weekly basis, as well as the amount they are willing to provide for in a settlement, maybe wrong. Simply because they tell you that it is correct and that is it is fair, does not make it so.
  3. The fact that you had a pre-existing condition or prior problem does not mean your entitlement to Workers’ Compensation benefits ends. I have many clients that have been told that because they had a prior back injury that their new back injury or new aggravation at work is not compensable. This is not accurate.
  4. Although the employer is allowed to make the initial choice of your doctor, they cannot control the care in the future without limits. In many situations, you are able to petition for a different doctor if you are unhappy with the one they have provided.
  5. That fact that you are discussing the claim with the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier does not end your obligation to meet the deadlines imposed by the Workers’ Compensation laws. Those laws require you to file the claim within two years of the date of injury or three years from the date of the last payment of weekly Workers’ Compensation benefits.

These issues and many others are ones that can be discussed and should be discussed with an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer. Many Workers’ Compensation lawyers and firms, including the Pothitakis Law Firm, P.C., will provide an initial consultation about your case without charge.