Get Your Questions Answered Today By Burlington, IA Injury Attorney Nicholas Pothitakis

After an injury or accident, you probably have a number of general questions about who was at fault, whether you are owed compensation, and whether you need an attorney to assist you with your claim. Below, we've answered some of the most common questions that we hear at our law firm.
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  • Should I seek medical care using my health insurance after a work injury?

    Rights of Employees After Being Injured at WorkOne of the most important steps to take after a work injury is to seek medical care. Failing to obtain appropriate, timely treatment can negatively affect your health and your life for years to come. Additionally, it can be very difficult to successfully pursue a workers’ compensation claim for an injury that was never treated by a doctor.

    There are a number of reasons why a worker would not seek care, including worries about medical bills, pressure from an employer, or a misunderstanding of the severity of the injury. These issues can be addressed, however, and Iowa workers should seek treatment for any work-related injury as soon as possible. So, how exactly should they go about finding care? And what should you do if your employer tells you to use your health insurance to obtain that care?

    Iowa Employers Rights and Responsibilities After an Employee Injury

    In the state of Iowa, employers have a number of rights and responsibilities after an employee is injured at work. Employers are required to provide care for a worker who is injured on the job under their employment regardless of fault. Most employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance and use that insurance to provide medical care and wage replacement benefits for injured workers. However, employers are allowed to direct the care. They may choose the provider, and they do not have to pay if an employee chooses to seek treatment outside the approved providers. Typically, an employer will provide an injured employee with a list of certified doctors, and the employee may select from that group.

    Health Insurance Claims and Work-Related Injuries

    Private health insurance companies have their own responsibilities to those they insure. They, too, must provide care for injuries. However, because of the existence of the workers’ compensation system, health insurance does not have to cover injuries that occur as a result of employment conditions. They also do not offer wage replacement benefits. Providers and insurance company representatives will inquire as to how the injury occurred. If an individual uses his health insurance for the treatment of a work-related injury, the health insurance company has a right to (and likely will) deny the claim. Additionally, lying about the cause of the injury to protect an employer or avoid the workers’ compensation system could constitute insurance fraud, which is a criminal offense.

    How Does an Injured Worker Know Which Insurance to Use?

    Determining whether an injured worker should pursue care under workers’ compensation or his health insurance depends largely on whether the work injury claim will be allowed or denied. The general guidelines for seeking treatment through workers’ compensation include:

    • The worker is an employee of the company.
    • The injury is job-related.
    • The employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance or be self-insured. (Only a small number of employers are exempt from this mandate in Iowa).

    Typically, if all these criteria are met, a workers’ compensation claim should move forward through the employer rather than health insurance. Though, every situation is unique, and any number of other factors could influence your circumstances.

    An Experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

    There are many rules that govern the workers’ compensation system for both employers and employees. If you have suffered an injury at work and you are unsure of how to proceed, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help. This is especially true if your employer is pressuring you to use your own health insurance or if you feel they will retaliate (or have already) if you file a workers’ compensation claim. These types of actions could be in violation of your rights and state law. Injured workers in Iowa have rights to care and compensation, and at Pothitakis Law Firm, our legal team works hard to ensure those rights are protected. We can help you:

    • Understand your rights as an employee
    • Prepare documents
    • File a workers’ compensation claim
    • Negotiate with insurance companies
    • State your case at a hearing if necessary

    If you or someone you love has suffered an injury at work, call our office nearest you to learn more about what we do and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

     

  • What can I do if my workers’ compensation claim is denied?

    When Your Workers' Compensation Claim Is DeniedThousands of workers’ compensation claims are filed in Iowa every year, with many injured employees able to obtain benefits fairly easily. However, there are also often claims that are denied or compensated unfairly. As a result, injured workers and their families may face a difficult time—physical pain, financial hardship, and undue stress. Fortunately, Iowa employees do have options through the workers’ compensation system to appeal a decision they feel is not right.

    Common Reasons Your Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim May Be Denied

    There are a number of reasons why workers’ compensation claims may be denied in Iowa. From simple timing to more complicated medical issues, the chances of a successful appeal depend on the unique circumstances of each case. Some of the more common denials are based on:

    • Missed deadlines
    • Injury sustained outside work
    • Injury not severe enough to warrant benefits
    • Drug or alcohol use indicated
    • Injured worker not considered an employee of employer
    • Injury is related to a pre-existing condition

    It is possible to dispute these and other reasons that employers and insurers offer when denying or reducing payments. Even if you are not sure if your claim can be appealed, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney. A skilled legal team can help you understand your situation more fully and determine the best course of action going forward.

    Appealing an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim Decision

    There are ways to dispute a denial of benefits in Iowa. Many times, simply going back to the employer or insurance company can resolve the issue. The Iowa workers’ compensation commission encourages “free and open communication” between employee and employer. State data indicates that most workers’ compensation claims can be resolved in this manner; only about a quarter of cases escalated to official claims.

    Unfortunately, there are times when the dispute cannot be resolved, and the employee must pursue more official means. In Iowa, a worker can file a contested-case proceeding. The state advises injured employees to seek legal counsel if it is necessary to pursue this option, as the decision of the commission is binding and the members of the commission are prohibited from offering any advice. Contested case hearings can be lengthy; the most recent report from the Iowa Workplace Development office stated that the average case took 571 days to resolve, and the commission heard about 600 cases in 2015.

    Contested Case Proceeding to Appeal Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

    In a contested-case proceeding, the injured worker appeals the decision of the employer to the state commission. A hearing is held in which both the injured worker and the employer or its insurance company are given an opportunity to state a case, offer evidence, question witnesses, and supply expert testimony. The burden of proof in these cases is typically on the injured worker—he must show that the initial decision was incorrect and that his injuries do, in fact, warrant workers’ compensation benefits. Decisions can be challenged through the system, following the chain of:

    • Deputy workers’ compensation commissioner
    • Workers’ compensation commissioner
    • Local courts
    • Iowa Supreme Court

    Obtaining Proper Payment for Your Iowa Work Injury

    In some cases, benefits are awarded, but they may not adequately cover your injury. It is again possible to appeal that decision to the state commission, similar to the denial of benefits entirely. Additionally, benefits decisions can heavily rely on the opinion of a doctor and his determination of your impairment rating. This rating is meant to reflect the degree of your disability, and compensation is awarded accordingly. If you feel the doctor selected by your employer is not appropriately addressing your injury, it is possible to request a second opinion.

    If you have suffered an injury at work and you were denied workers’ compensation benefits, or if your benefits are not adequate to cover your injury, the experienced attorneys at Pothitakis Law Firm may be able to help. Call our office today to learn more about your rights and how to obtain the maximum compensation.

  • What should I do if I have suffered a work injury?

    Actions to Take After Your Work InjuryIn 2015, over 39,000 Iowa workers suffered a job-related injury. Work injuries affect employees across all industries—from offices to construction sites. These injuries can vary greatly in nature and severity, but any injury can affect one’s ability to continue to work and earn income. For those times, the Iowa workers’ compensation system exists to ensure that workers are able to obtain medical care and help maintain financial security. While there are a number of benefits that can help you or your loved after an injury, it is important to take action as soon as possible to protect your rights and ensure you are able to get the care and support you need.

    Four Actions You Should Take Directly After a Work Injury

    In Iowa, there are time limits for applying for and obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. Waiting too long can prevent you from receiving the care and compensation you need. After an injury, it is important to:

    1. Report your injury to your employer. State law requires that any work injury be reported to an employer within 90 days, though it is strongly encouraged the injury be reported as soon as possible. Many employers will have an injured employee fill out an incident report to submit. If your employer does not request this, it is a good idea to write down when and where the incident happened, who witnessed the incident, and document how the incident happened. You should make sure you submit this written documentation to your employer.
    2. Seek medical care. Even if you are worried about how your bills will be paid, if you are injured at work, you should visit an emergency room or urgent care provider as appropriate. This is vital to both your well-being and any workers’ compensation claim. If an injured employee fails to seek medical care, it may appear as if there was no injury that has been suffered.
    3. Do not downplay your injuries. Make sure you are honest about the full scope of your injuries and any symptoms experience—with both your employer and your doctor. In some cases, further health issues can develop over time, and it is important that all the relevant parties have all the information as soon as possible.
    4. Follow the advice of your healthcare provider. Once you have sought medical care, follow through. Listen to your provider and follow his instructions. Failing to do so could result in further pain, slower recovery, and an inability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.

    An Experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

    While the law does not require an injured worker to have an attorney, it is a good idea to seek the advice of legal counsel in workers’ compensation cases. An attorney can help you fully understand your rights and pursue the maximum amount of compensation. Workers’ compensation law is complex; these cases can be confusing and time consuming if not approached appropriately right from the start. The system is also fairly strict, and even simple errors in preparing or filing paperwork can result in lost benefits. It is especially important to consult an attorney if:

    For injured workers and their families, the stakes are often very high. Facing physical pain and financial hardship, workers need help. It is important to seek that help as soon as possible to ensure you are able to obtain the care and compensation that will ensure your success. The decisions of the workers’ compensation commission are legally binding and can affect you and your loved ones for years to come.

    At Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorneys are here to offer the compassion and representation needed to protect your future. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how we may be able to help.

     

  • How does the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act benefit injured workers?

    Workers’ compensation has existed in Iowa for over 100 years. The state first adopted laws addressing work injuries in 1913, and over the years has developed a system that is noted as one of the most efficient and cost-effective in the nation. In addition, Iowa workers’ compensation benefits are the most generous, offering the highest weekly rate of payment according to the most recent data available. Employers and employees alike benefit from the protections of the workers’ compensation system, which are set by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act. Here, we take a closer look at this law to help injured workers betters understand their rights and the benefits available to them and their families.

    A Brief History of the Workers’ Compensation System

    In the 19th century, the United States experienced an industrial boom—and, along with it, a significant increase in workplace injuries. After these accidents, injured workers were left facing not only the physical pain and limitations of their injuries but also the financial strain of missed work and lost income. For those workers, the only way to provide for their care and ensure financial security was to sue their employers. This would begin a lengthy and costly legal battle for both employer and employee.

    Eventually, every state would adopt a workers’ compensation program to address this problem. These programs represent a compromise between the interests of employers and employees: employers would provide medical care and compensation regardless of fault, while employees would be limited in their ability to sue employers. Today, every state regulates a workers’ compensation program, though the details can vary greatly from state to state.

    The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act

    As in other states, officials in Iowa recognized the need for an effective workers’ compensation system that would protect workers and employers. The law has evolved over the years, and today it is reflected in Iowa Code Section 85. The act establishes the state system that allows Iowa workers to obtain medical care and wage replacement if they are injured or fall ill on the job.

    Some of the main tenets of the system are:

    • Only injuries or illnesses that result directly from work are covered. Employers are not responsible for providing care and compensation for injuries that are sustained outside of the scope of employment. However, activities included under the scope of employment fall under a wide range, including travel for work, participation in work-related social events, and more.
       
    • Benefits are available regardless of fault. Even if the worker is responsible for his injury, he can still obtain benefits. There are certain exceptions, but this covers most injuries that arise on the job. Additionally, if the injury results in the death of the worker, surviving family members may be eligible to receive benefits.
       
    • Employees are protected from retaliation. Many injured employees are concerned that they will suffer negative consequences at work if they pursue a workers’ compensation claim. State law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate in any form, whether through demotions, threats, reduced time, or other means.

    Benefits Available Through the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act

    There are two main types of benefits provided by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act for both employees and their families. State law requires the most employers either carry workers’ compensation insurance or self-insure to provide these benefits, which are:

    • Medical benefits. Employers or their insurance company will cover all reasonable medical expenses related to the work injury, including doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, rehabilitation, travel to appointments, and more. Medical benefits can be obtained regardless of whether the employee is forced to miss work due to the injury or illness.
       
    • Wage replacement. Weekly compensation is paid while the employee is out of work as a result of the injury. These payments follow a schedule set by the state depending on the nature and severity of the injury. Payment begins on the fourth day of missed work. If more than 14 days of work are lost because of the injury, the employee is also paid for the initial four days. The current maximum rate for wage loss is 80 percent of the employee’s weekly spendable earnings.

    Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act, state workers are protected from physical, emotional, and financial hardship that can accompany a job-related injury or illness. If you or someone you love has suffered such an injury, the experienced attorney at Pothitakis Law Firm can help you understand this law and make sure you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.
     

  • If I’m at fault for my work injury, can I still receive workers’ compensation benefits in Iowa?

    One of the main tenets of the workers’ compensation system is the payment of benefits regardless of fault. Even if an employee caused his own injury, he is typically still able to obtain benefits. The system specifically addresses this issue to help protect both employees and employers. Employees are able to obtain medical care and wage replacement so they can get back to work, and employers are left facing only limited liability.

    The general rule does have limits, however. There are a number of circumstances in which an employee’s actions may disqualify him from receiving worker’s compensation benefits. It is important to understand these situations and what your rights may be. Here, we examine some of the more common behavioral issues that can affect workers’ eligibility.

    Certain Behaviors Can Disqualify an Employee From Workers’ Comp Benefits

    The guidelines for workers’ compensation eligibility in Iowa generally specify that a company employee must suffer an injury in the course of work. There are some circumstances under which an employee can rightfully be denied compensation for an injury sustained at work, however. Most states have similar rules about these situations, and they include:

    • Horseplay. When an employee engages in horseplay on the job and is injured as a result, he may not be eligible for compensation. Note, however, that there have been exceptions to this rule which we will discuss below.
       
    • Drug or alcohol use. If an employee is injured while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an employer is not responsible for providing payment for an injury sustained at work. In these cases, the intoxication must have been the main factor in the injury.
       
    • Self-inflicted injury or fighting. The state of Iowa specifies that “willful intent to injure the employee’s self or to willfully injure another” can disqualify an employee from benefits. Employers do not have to pay benefits to employees whose injures are sustained in a fight, even if the fight happened at the place of business or even related to business disagreements.
       
    • Acting in direct violation of stated company policy. Employers have the right to set guidelines and rules to help promote the safety of their employees. Workers who are aware of these policies but choose to act against them may not be eligible for benefits.
       
    • Acts of a third party. If a third party causes injury to an employee—deliberately or through negligence—the employer is generally is not compelled to provide compensation.

    Obtaining Benefits Despite These Behaviors

    While it may be difficult to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured in one of these scenarios, it still can be possible. Every case is unique, and often employers bear the burden of proving that the workers’ behavior disqualifies them from eligibility. In many of these cases, the employer must be able to prove:

    • The behavior was the main cause of the injury. If an employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and is injured, it still must be proven that intoxication was the primary cause of the injury. In 2011, a Montana park worker was mauled by grizzly bear on the job after using marijuana. The courts there, however, ruled that his drug use played no role in the attack and awarded him compensation.
       
    • The behavior was outside the accepted norm at the workplace. The workplace culture can also play a role in determining compensation eligibility. If horseplay routinely occurs and is either encouraged or ignored by the management, the worker may still obtain benefits. Additionally, company policies that are routinely and widely violated with impunity may not bar an employee from receiving compensation. Finally, there are situations in which use of alcohol occurs as a normal part of employment, and those circumstances can be covered by workers’ compensation.

    An Experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

    If you or someone you love has suffered injuries at work in a situation related to any of these behaviors, it may be difficult to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. However, an experienced Iowa attorney can examine your unique situation and help you determine how best to move forward. The Iowa workers’ compensation system exists to protect employees and ensure their well-being. Even if you are worried your claim will be denied, an attorney may be able to help.

    At Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced legal team can investigate your claim, secure expert testimony, prepare paperwork, and frame your case to help you obtain the maximum compensation available. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page, and you’ll get a prompt response from a member of our team who can answer your questions and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

  • What are the different types of workers’ compensation settlements?

    Typically, workers’ compensation benefits are paid weekly to injured workers. Many of these types of payments are for temporary injuries, and it is more effective to address these benefits on a weekly basis.

    There are certain situations, however, in which the injured employee or his family may find that a settlement agreement is a preferred option. In these circumstances, a one-time payment or a specific amount paid over time can be offered to the worker. There are a number of different settlement options, though, and each one carries with it certain stipulations. It is important for injured workers and their families to understand the details of a settlement to ensure their rights are fully protected while obtaining the maximum amount of compensation. Here, we take a look at the different settlement options.

    Why Choose a Settlement Rather Than Weekly Payments?

    There are some definite benefits of pursuing a settlement in your workers’ compensation. First, a settlement can provide a lump sum of money. Some settlement arrangements offer injured workers cash all at once, rather than waiting for a weekly check. This can be important to employees and their families who have specific needs right now.

    Additionally, a settlement offer is guaranteed money. Weekly benefits can be terminated at any time depending on your situation. If you and your attorney feel it is likely that your benefits may be terminated sooner than you desire, a settlement can ensure compensation. This can be especially important for those whose insurer or employer is disputing the ongoing need for the employee to be away from work.

    Types of Iowa Workers’ Compensation Settlements

    There are a number of ways a settlement can be reached in an Iowa workers’ compensation claim. There are different types of settlements, as well as different ways these settlements are paid. The types of settlements include:

    • Agreement settlement. This resolves the amount and extent of compensation due. It must be approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and it does not affect the worker’s rights with respect to future compensation regarding the settled injury.
       
    • Compromise settlement. When there is a dispute over whether or not the injured worker is entitled to benefits, a compromise settlement can be reached. It also must be approved the Workers’ Compensation Commission, though it does terminate any future compensation for the settled injury. It may still be possible to obtain medical benefits, however, at the discretion of the commissioner.
       
    • Contingent settlement. Any type of settlement can be made contingent upon a specific event, such as when Medicare approval is needed. If the event does not occur, the settlement may be vacated.

    Settlement Payments Can be Made in Installments or Lump Sums

    In Iowa, settlement agreements are typically paid out in installments, similar to the weekly benefit payments. However, there are cases where it is possible to obtain a lump-sum settlement. To be eligible for these lump-sum payments, it must be shown that the worker has a specific need for a lump-sum payment, and also that it’s in the best interest of the worker to be awarded the lump-sum payment.

    When approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission, an injured worker may be paid:

    • Full commutation. This is a one-time payment made to the injured worker encompassing all future benefits. It must be approved by the commission, and it will terminate any future benefits related to the settled injury, including medical benefits.
       
    • Partial commutation. This is a lump-sum payment for part of the future benefits. It also must be approved by the commission; it terminates a worker’s rights to disability compensation, but it does not end a worker’s rights to medical benefits.

    Should You Settle a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

    While settlements do have significant benefits in certain situations, they can be complex and have far reaching consequences. Tax liability, financial planning, and other issues can all affect the returns of a settlement. Injured workers and their families should consider their options very carefully. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand your rights and make the best decision for your future. It is important to remember that settlements are final. An injured worker cannot go back and undo what has already been done.

    At Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced legal team has helped many injured workers understand their options and worked to ensure they receive the maximum amount of compensation in the most effective manner. Take a moment to request a free copy of our book, 7 Things You Must Know If You Get Hurt at Work, to learn more about your rights in Iowa.

     

  • What value is placed on each body part for an Iowa workers’ compensation claim?

    In 2015, there were 5,700 amputation injuries to workers across the country. That represents about 15 amputations on the job per day, and the figure may not include those injuries that resulted in the loss of an extremity after the initial trauma.

    An amputation to any extremity can be painful and shocking for an employee, and it can leave them facing new challenges both at home and at work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who suffer an amputation miss a median 26 days of work, adding to the stresses of the injury. For Iowa workers—like others across the U.S.—the workers’ compensation system offers specific benefits to aid those who lose an extremity or suffer the permanent loss of use of that body part.

    What Is a Scheduled Injury in Iowa?

    The Iowa workers’ compensation system identifies the loss of or permanent injury to an extremity as a scheduled injury. The state has set a schedule that denotes how many weeks of compensation different types of injuries will pay. It is based upon different body parts and covers the loss of:

    • Arm: 250 weeks
    • Leg: 220 weeks
    • Foot: 150 weeks
    • Eye: 140 weeks
    • Hand: 190 weeks
    • Hearing: 50 weeks
    • Hearing in both ears: 175 weeks
    • Disfigurement to face or head: 150 weeks
    • Fingers: between 20 and 35 weeks depending on the finger
    • Thumb: 60 weeks
    • Great toe: 40 weeks
    • Toe: 15 weeks

    Injuries not included on the list of scheduled losses are considered industrial disabilities. It is still possible to obtain compensation for those types of injuries, but they follow a different set of guidelines. An industrial disability would include permanent injuries to the shoulder, knee, back, neck, body as a whole, and more.

    Determining Compensation for a Scheduled Injury

    Scheduled injuries may make an employee eligible to receive both healing period (HP) and permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. Healing period benefits offer compensation while the employee is recovering from the injury, while PPD benefits are available once the worker has reached maximum medical improvement or is able to return to work. Both of these benefits pay injured employees 80 percent of their spendable weekly earnings, not to exceed a set maximum.

    When considering a scheduled injury, the number of weeks listed in the schedule assumes a complete loss. An amputation would be considered a complete loss; an employee who loses an arm in a machinery accident would be able to obtain the full 250 weeks of compensation. However, an employee who suffers a permanent injury to his arm but retains some function, may not be compensated for as many weeks. A doctor will determine the extent of the loss and compensation will be offered accordingly. If an employee is said to have only 25 percent function, he would be entitled to 75 percent of 250 weeks, which calculates out to 187.5 weeks of benefits.

    Our Experienced Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

    Scheduled injury benefits can be complex, and there may be some dispute over the level of impairment. It is important to understand how a medical provider is selected and how to dispute rulings you feel are unfair. An experienced attorney can help injured workers learn more about their rights and work with them through the medical review process to ensure that their injury if fairly compensated by:

    • Obtaining medical records
    • Securing expert testimony
    • Helping to seek a second opinion
    • Presenting your case at hearings

    If you or someone you love has suffered an amputation or a permanent injury to one or more of your extremities, you will face many challenges related to your health, personal life, employment, and finances. It is important to obtain the maximum amount of compensation possible to ensure the security of yourself and your family. At Pothitakis Law Firm, our skilled legal team has helped many injured Iowa workers just like you move forward with their lives. Take a moment to request a free copy of our book, 7 Things You Must Know If You Get Hurt at Work, to learn more about how we can help.
     

  • If I have medical restrictions after a job-related injury, is my employer required to find work for me?

    Work injuries are very common across the country, and the state of Iowa offers some of the most generous workers’ compensation benefits in the nation. There are a many different types of benefits available that seek to address a wide variety of injury and work situations, and the state offers higher compensation than many other states.

    There are still many questions, however, when it comes to benefits eligibility and returning to work. One common issue arises when an injured worker is cleared by his doctor to go back to the job, but restrictions are placed on the duties that can be performed. In some cases, these limitations are easily managed, with the employee able to complete essential job functions and go forward as before the injury. In other cases, however, the restrictions may be more inconvenient to work around. What options do employers and employees have in these situations? The answer depends on the type of work and the prognosis for the employee.

    Determining Work Restrictions and Appropriate Duties

    An employee’s fitness to return to work, with or without restrictions, is left to the discretion of the worker’s doctor. Only a physician can set restrictions, and he can do so by filling out a work status report after an appointment. The employee himself cannot determine the limitations of his work; employers are bound only by the report of a doctor.

    Additionally, it is the responsibility of the employee to share the physician’s recommendations with his employer within one business day of the appointment. This allows the employer time to consider the restrictions and find appropriate work for the injured employee.

    Employers Are Required to Comply With Restrictions After an Injury

    If an employee is injured and is limited in his ability to perform job duties by a doctor, Iowa employers are required to comply with the restrictions. If they cannot do so, they must allow the employee to remain out of work and receive weekly temporary total disability benefits.

    There are many modifications that an employer may be able to arrange to meet the new restrictions. Some of the most common modifications employers make to comply with restrictions include:

    • Light duty work
    • Reduced workload
    • Use of adaptive equipment

    In many cases, however, it is just not possible for the injured worker to perform the same job duties as before the accident. Employers may move the employee to a completely new position for the short term, until he is fully recovered and able to return to his previous position.

    For their part, employees must accept any modified or light duty work offered by the employee, as long as it meets the restriction requirements. Refusing to do so could result in the loss of workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, if the injured worker and the employer disagree on the type of work that is appropriate, it is important to document the situation and seek legal guidance.

    Temporary Partial Disability Benefits Can Help During Limited Work

    In addition to having a right to modified work, an injured employee can reasonably expect to earn income that is similar to that earned before the injury. If this is not possible because of the restrictions, the employee may be able to receive both a paycheck and temporary partial disability benefits. Temporary partial disability benefits pay two-thirds of the difference between the employee’s average gross weekly earnings at the time of the injury and the employee’s actual earnings while temporarily working at the lesser paying, modified job.

    When an Employer Does Not Have to Comply With Work Restrictions

    While an employer must do what he can to promote an employee’s ability to work and return to full duty, he is not obligated to find work for an employee at all times. Restricted work is not intended to address permanent limitations, according to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services. The initial restriction period is mandated at 20 days or when the restrictions are lifted by the treating doctor, whichever is less. Extensions can be granted based most often on the opinion of the treating doctor. After that time, it is possible that the employer will determine that he is unable to offer appropriate work on an ongoing basis.

    The Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act afford additional protections for injured employees whose restrictions become permanent. These cases can be complicated, however, and an experienced attorney can help workers understand their rights and take the most effective steps to protect them.

    While in general an employer must accept the restrictions of an injured employee, every situation is unique, and there are many different types of benefits that can aid injured workers. At Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced legal team can help you fully understand all your options and pursue the maximum amount of compensation for you and your family. Take a moment to fill out our contact form on this page, and you’ll receive a prompt response from a member of our team who can answer your questions and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

  • What is vocational rehabilitation?

    The goal for most injured workers is a healthy and expedient return to work. The majority of work injuries require only some time off, and employees are able to get back on the job after recovery.

    Unfortunately for some workers, their injuries or illnesses leave them with some lingering limitations, making it difficult or even impossible to resume their previous position. They may be unsure of what to do. Can they perform their old job with modifications? Will they have to seek a new type of employment? Will it be possible to find employment with their new disability? The answers to these questions may depend on a number of factors, including the employer, the type of restrictions, the nature of the job, and much more. To help those disabled workers address these issues and return to work, the state of Iowa offers vocational rehabilitation services.

    Vocational Rehabilitation Assists Workers With Limitations Get to Work

    Vocational rehabilitation is a program that helps workers with physical or mental disabilities both find and maintain employment. The goal of this type of rehabilitation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is to help workers:

    • Return to work as quickly as possible.
    • Find a job appropriate for the work restrictions named by their physicians.
    • Obtain income as close as possible to their earnings before the injury or illness.

    The Iowa vocational rehabilitation program is state-federal program, and it is among the most successful in the country. A recent study ranked the state sixth in the nation for workers with disabilities; there are over 180,000 disabled workers in the workforce. This figure represents about 47 percent of all people with disabilities in Iowa.

    Types of Services Provided Through Vocational Rehabilitation

    A vocational rehabilitation program can provide a wide variety of services to support those trying to get back into the workforce. Every case is unique, and the types of services necessary depend on the circumstances of each individual. Common interventions include:

    • Facilitation of communication with former employer to explore a return to previous work
    • Evaluation to determine interests, aptitude, and abilities
    • Assistive technology and devices
    • Résumé development
    • Job training
    • Interview skills and techniques training
    • Job search assistance
    • Education and tuition payments for job training
    • Career counseling
    • Assistance with accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • Formation of a return-to-work plan

    Typically, the most desirable option for getting back to work is returning to your former position with the same employer. Vocational rehabilitation can help facilitate this as much as possible through counseling and modifications. If that option fails, rehabilitation will help explore new opportunities.

    Eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Iowa

    Injured workers are entitled to vocational rehabilitation as part of their workers’ compensation benefits, as long as they meet certain criteria. In Iowa, an individual must:

    • Be an injured worker receiving compensation payments (or have received a lump sum settlement in some cases).
    • Be unable to return to his job as before due to some lasting disability.
    • Have appropriate return-to-work options in his local area.

    Usually, the worker must also have reached maximum medical improvement as determined by a treating physician before beginning a vocational rehabilitation program, though there are some exceptions.

    Compensation During the Rehabilitation Period

    While a disabled worker is working with vocational rehabilitation services, he is receiving some type of available Iowa workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to those payments, the worker could be entitled to an additional $100 per week for up to 13 weeks. The payments may be extended in some cases. The vocational rehabilitation program itself is typically free of cost to the injured worker, or it can be obtained for a minimal charge.

    If you or someone you love has suffered a work injury that has left you with a lasting disability, you may need assistance getting back to work. At Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced legal team is here to help you obtain the information, skills, and tools you need to be successful. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more.
     

  • How do disputes over claims for workers’ compensation benefits get resolved?

    For employers and insurance companies, workers’ compensation claims can be no different from any other type of expense. These businesses want to save money. To protect their bottom lines, they will often dispute benefit claims in hope of reducing or avoiding payment. They may hope that an injured employee whose claim has been denied will simply seek other types of treatment or drop the claim. Fortunately for Iowa workers, however, there is a process that allows workers to dispute benefit decisions to ensure that all injured employees are able to obtain the care and compensation they deserve.

    Resolving a Dispute Directly With Your Employer

    Many times, workers’ compensation disputes can be resolved with direct and open communication among the employee, the employer, and the insurance company. Iowa employers are required to be clear about the reasons for a decision and present evidence that supports that decision. There are penalties for denying a claim unreasonably, and employers and their insurers have a duty to provide benefits when appropriate. Often, when addressed directly about the situation, employers will recognize their responsibility to provide compensation. If this is not possible, a more formal process can be pursued.

    Taking a Workers’ Compensation Dispute to the State Commission

    The Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation maintains files on all claims and can help all parties understand their rights and options. When an employee and an employer cannot resolve their disagreement, the office can suggest ways to seek a resolution. A compliance administrator can evaluate the case. While compliance administrators cannot represent the interest of either side, they can and do provide information on state law, the rights of both parties, and state procedures. They can also offer:

    • Mediation services
    • Alternate medical care
    • Health services dispute resolution

    This can be a good place to find information and provide a framework for resolution short of the formal process. Many cases are resolved in this manner and avoid the stress of a formal dispute.

    Pursuing a Formal Contested Case Proceeding in Iowa

    When other resolution methods fail, however, injured employees can file a formal dispute with the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. This is known as a contested case proceeding. In a contested case proceeding, the commissioner or a commissioner’s deputy will hold a hearing. At that time, both sides will offer their version of events and provide evidence to support their claims. In these situations, the burden of proof is on the injured employee to prove that he is entitled to the benefits sought.

    While an attorney is not required, the office does often suggest seeking representation to ensure that an employee’s rights are fully protected. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help injured workers understand their rights, gather evidence, prepare for the hearing, secure expert testimony, and present a thorough case to the commissioner.

    If a claim is again denied, the injured employee would not have any further recourse in the workers’ compensation system. The case would have to be further pursued through the state court system.

    Take Action Now to Protect Your Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim

    It is important to report a work injury and file a claim as soon as possible. In Iowa, failure to meet the stated deadlines will result in the denial of your workers’ compensation claim. Many times, claims are denied and benefits lost simply because the injured employee waited too long to file or appeal a claim.

    If you or someone you love has suffered a job-related injury or illness, the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Pothitakis Law Firm may be able to help. Our skilled legal team has helped many injured Iowa workers obtain the care and compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free copy of our book, 7 Things You Must Know If You Get Hurt at Work, to learn more about your rights.