Workers’ compensation in Iowa is a system of laws designed to provide certain benefits to injured employees and responsibilities for employers. There are basically three benefits to which an injured employee is entitled:
- Medical care;
- Payment of a percentage of wages while off work recovering from an injury; and
- Permanent disability (if your injury is determined to cause a permanent functional impairment).
An Iowa employer is required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance or qualify as a self-insurer. The law places a burden on the employer and its insurance carrier to investigate claims and either promptly pay benefits or, if the case is denied, communicate the reason for the denial to the injured worker. Although the goal of the workers’ compensation system is to provide prompt medical care and payment of lost wages to an injured employee, this often is not the result. The laws are complicated and the process is lengthy. Below is some information to help you navigate a work injury claim.
NOTICE OF INJURY
An injured employee should notify the employer as soon as possible after the injury. Although the law requires an injured worker give notice to the employer within ninety (90) days of the date of injury, prompt notice is highly recommended.
The employer chooses and directs the medical care for the work injury. If the injured worker is not satisfied with the care provided by the employer, the worker may request approval for alternate care. Be as complete and accurate as possible when you see the doctor about your injury. Often times, a person has more than one (1) injury from a work accident. It is common to only focus on the most painful and troublesome part of the body that is hurting. However, for the doctor to treat you effectively and for a better outcome, be detailed and specific concerning all of your problems.
LOST WAGES WHILE OFF WORK
If the work injury results in more than three (3) days off work (on doctor’s orders), the injured worker may be entitled to wage payments. The wage benefit is calculated by a system which takes into account a number of factors. On average, the amount received by a worker for this type of benefit is approximately 66% of the worker’s average weekly wage at the time of the injury. There are several types of wage benefits which may be owed to an injured worker.
TYPES OF WAGE BENEFITS
- Temporary Benefits – payments continue until you return to work or are medically able to return to work. Temporary benefits may be partial (you are able to return to work but at a lesser paying rate) or total (off work totally until you return to work or are deemed medically recovered to perform similar work).
- Permanent Partial – if the injury causes a permanent impairment/restriction or impacts your ability to earn similar wages as compared to before the injury.
- Permanent Total – you cannot return to any type of work.
- Death Benefits – the injured worker’s death is causally related to the injury and benefits are payable to his/her spouse and/or dependents as the case may be.
TYPES OF INJURIES TO THE BODY
Under Iowa’s workers’ compensation system, injuries to the body are classified generally as either scheduled (an injury to an extremity; e.g. limb/hand/foot) or whole body (an injury to the head, neck, or trunk). The amount of compensation a worker receives for partial or permanent loss of use of a scheduled member or whole-body injury is dependent on a number of complex considerations, as determined by Iowa law.
The outcome of your case hinges on a wide variety of topics, including medical care, bills, whether you subsequently lost your job, whether you are considering applying for social security disability, and many more. Additionally, the Iowa legislature made significant and detrimental changes to an injured workers’ rights in 2017. The above information only touches upon a small portion of the very complicated workers’ compensation system in Iowa.
It is strongly recommended you seek a good Work Comp Attorney to assist you with a work injury, especially if there are disputes as to whether the injury is indeed work related or whether you have pre-existing conditions affecting your recovery. After all, the employer and insurance carrier will have legal counsel to advise them. You should too! If you find yourself overwhelmed by this process, call us for a free consultation.
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