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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  • What kinds of work injuries are covered by Iowa workers’ compensation?

    The Iowa workers’ compensation system exists to protect employees when they suffer an illness or injury on the job. The benefits are available to provide medical care and offer wage replacement so the employee can recover as fully as possible.

    For many injured employees, workers’ compensation is a vital component of both their physical recovery and their continued financial stability. Often, employees are not familiar with the system and are unsure of their rights. They may not even know what kinds of injuries are covered. Fortunately, workers’ compensation benefits address a wide range of injuries and illnesses that can result from a variety of causes. Here, we’ll find out more about these injuries.

    Workers’ Compensation Can Help With Different Types of Injuries

    According to the Iowa workers’ compensation commission, an injury is defined as “any health impairment other than the normal building up and tearing down of body tissues.” Commonly, people think workers’ compensation covers those who are injured in an accident at work. While this is true, the system addresses many different types of injuries that are the result of many different situations, including:

    • A traumatic physical injury caused by a single event. Car accidents, machining issues, falls, object strikes, and more are classic examples of accidents at work. These one-time events can leave employees with injuries that cause pain, require medical treatment, and prevent the employee from performing their job duties for some amount of time.
       
    • A cumulative injury caused by repetitive stress or exposure that develops over time. Repetitive use injuries are becoming increasingly common among the workforce, especially with the growing use of computers and machinery. Even seemingly light work such as typing or small tool use can cause these types of injuries when performed day after day. Tendonitis, carpal tunnel, and bursitis are the most common repetitive use injuries.
       
    • A work-related disease such as heart or lung disease. Some occupations put employees at risk for diseases that can affect major body organs, even while the employee may appear healthy. Miners, firefighters, police officers, and many more can breathe in toxins or be exposed to chemicals harmful to their health while at work. Hearing loss is also covered when it is the result of noise and a lack of appropriate training and protection.
       
    • A mental or emotional injury that is work-related. While most jobs are accompanied by some amount of stress, there are times when an employee experiences an emotional injury that affects them for months or even years. In these cases, it can be possible to pursue a workers’ compensation claim.
       
    • Aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Generally, workers’ compensation does not cover any pre-existing conditions. However, if a condition is worsened by the work environment, it can be possible to obtain benefits.

    When Work Injuries Occur Outside the Workplace

    Jobs can encompass many different types of tasks and duties, and they can take an employee from a job site to an office to virtually anywhere. Workers’ compensation will cover most job-related injuries, even ones that do not occur at the work site. This means that workers can obtain benefits for injuries sustained nearly anywhere in the course of their duties—when traveling for work, on a job site, or even possibly at a work social function. As long as the employee was taking action to perform a job-related task, it can be covered.

    Exceptions to the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Injury Rules

    There are a few circumstances in which the employer is not obligated to pay an injured employee workers’ compensation benefits, even if the injury occurs at work or is work-related. These include injuries sustained:

    • Outside of work.
    • While the employee was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    • When the employee was acting in direct conflict with stated company policy.
    • In a fight.
    • While the employee was committing a crime.

    If you or someone you love has suffered a work-related injury, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Even if the injury did not occur at the office, or if you aren’t sure if you have a case, reach out to the experienced lawyers at the Pothitakis Law Firm. Fill out our “contact us” form on this page, and you’ll receive a prompt response from a member of our legal team who can answer your questions and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

  • How is my medical information made available to the parties involved in my Workers' Compensation claim?

    medical recordsToday, there are a number of laws that protect our medical records. Care providers and insurance companies are not permitted to share information about patients without permission, and stiff penalties exist for those who do so.

    However, when an injured or ill employee pursues a workers’ compensation claim, there are different rules. These cases are based on the assertion that an employee suffered because of a work-related situation, so it is necessary to show medical evidence that supports that claim. To that end, medical records typically must be shared with the parties involved, including the employer and insurance company. Every situation is unique, so there are specific guidelines that govern what information must be shared and how it should be disseminated.

    Why Does My Employer Want to Read My Medical Records?

    Employers and their insurers want to know that an illness or injury was, in fact, suffered. This means they want to see two main pieces of information:

    • Medical treatment was obtained and necessary. If an employee did not seek treatment for the injury he claims to have suffered, it can be difficult to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. If he did, medical records will show that a qualified provider administered necessary care.
    •  The documented injuries match the incident report. Medical records documenting injuries can corroborate an employee's claim as to how the workplace accident occurred. For example, if an employee claims that repetitive use of machinery has damaged his elbow, his medical records can show the nature of the elbow injury, the specific diagnosis, and the type of treatment prescribed or stated as necessary in the future.

    Do I Have to Sign the Waiver to Allow Access to My Medical Records?

    The short answer is yes. Iowa workers’ compensation law requires injured employees to provide access to medical records to prove the claim by signing a waiver that allows providers to share personal information. Unfortunately, this may include information the employee may consider personal or even embarrassing. Additionally, medical records are also typically required in cases involving the death of an employee, and an authorized representative of the deceased may be asked to sign a waiver.

    An insurance company representative may attempt to get an employee to sign a waiver allowing unlimited access to all records, including past records and records not related to the work injury. While the insurer is entitled to obtain information to gain a comprehensive view of any earlier injuries or pre-existing conditions, there can be limits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help injured workers understand their rights and work to protect privacy as much as possible.

    It is also important to note that both sides have an equal duty to provide records. If requested, the employer and insurance company must also provide the employee with copies of the medical records they receive. Both sides are entitled to have all the same information.

    Who Is Allowed to Share My Personal Information?

    Employers and insurance companies have the right to seek information from any provider who treated a worker relevant to the work injury. This can include your family doctor, hospital staff, psychiatrists or psychologists, rehabilitation therapists, and any specialists.

    Once an employer or insurance company has your medical information, they are obligated to protect your privacy as much as possible. Outside use for your workers’ compensation claim, your medical information is confidential.

    Although it may be uncomfortable, you'll need to provide personal information to properly settle a workers' compensation claim. Fortunately, the experienced attorneys at the Pothitakis Law Firm can help you protect your privacy as much as possible and offer guidance in these difficult situations. Learn more about Iowa workers’ compensation and how our legal team may be able to help by downloading a free copy of our book, 7 Things You Must Know if You Get Hurt at Work.

     

  • What is workers’ compensation?

    workers' compLast year in the United States, there were nearly 3 million reported workplace injuries and illnesses. To ensure the continued well-being of everyone, each state has adopted workers’ compensation laws. These laws protect the interests of both employers and employees, and they ensure the continued well-being and success of both by providing certain compensation to injured employees.

    Iowa Workers’ Compensation Provides Vital Care and Compensation

    The Iowa workers’ compensation system, like others across the country, offers remuneration in three main categories for injured workers and their families:

    • Medical bills: Pending review, medical expenses related to a workplace accident may be covered under workers’ compensation, including hospital stays, surgery, medication, doctors’ appointments, and others.
    • Wage replacement: Often, injured and ill workers are forced to miss work because of their injuries. Hence, they are unable to earn income as they did before the injury. The workers’ compensation system can provide payments while the employee is out of work. The payment amounts are based on a number of factors, including the severity of the injury and the employee’s previous wages.
    • Rehabilitation services: The goal of any care program is to help a person recover after suffering from an illness or injury. The workers’ compensation system may pay for treatment that enables an injured employee to regain as much function as possible, including physical and emotional therapy. This can also include vocational rehabilitation to help the employee rejoin the workforce.

    In the event a workplace injury results in an employee’s death, surviving family members may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, including funeral costs and wage replacement.

    Workers’ Comp Exists to Protect Everyone in the Workforce

    Workers’ compensation protects both employees and employers after an accident or other scenario causes a worker to suffer injuries or fall ill. The system is based on two main tenets:

    • Workers can obtain benefits regardless of who was at fault. Injuries and illnesses occur as a result of many different circumstances. Sometimes, the employer is at fault if the work environment is unsafe. Other times, potentially careless behavior of the employee causes the injury. However, under workers’ compensation, employers agree to offer benefits no matter what caused an accident.
    • Employers are shielded from further costly and time-consuming litigation. Before workers’ compensation existed, employers were often involved in arduous and expensive litigation, in which they had to show that an employee or some other party was negligent. In exchange for disregarding fault, employers no longer have to do this, and employees may not sue their employer if they receive workers’ compensation benefits.

    Types of Injuries Covered by Iowa Workers’ Compensation

    The workers’ compensation system covers most workplace injuries and illnesses. Injuries sustained both at work or outside the job location but during the course of employment duties are likely covered. For example, if an employee is injured in a car accident while traveling on work business, he may be able to obtain benefits. Workers’ compensation can also cover injuries and illnesses that occur over the course of time due to work-related factors, such as repetitive use injuries, hearing loss, carpal tunnel, chronic back pain, and other conditions.

    However, there are exceptions to the system. Employers and their insurance companies do not have to pay benefits when employees exhibit behavior that is well outside the realm of carelessness, including situations when:

    • The employee is drunk or under the influence of drugs.
    • The employee’s behavior is in violation of stated company policy.
    • The employee’s injuries are self-inflicted or the result of a fight.
    • The employee was injured while committing a crime.

    Additionally, workers’ compensation only covers eligible employees. In Iowa, certain types of workers are excluded from receiving benefits. Some of those positions include:

    • Domestic and casual employees who earn less than $1,500 per year
    • Agricultural laborers who work for a farm with a payroll of less than $2,500 the previous year
    • Safety forces eligible for pension funds
    • Individuals considered independent contractors

    If you or someone you love has suffered injuries performing job-related tasks, you may be eligible for Iowa workers’ compensation benefits. At the Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced attorneys have helped many injured Iowa employees obtain the medical care and wage replacement they deserved. Call our office or complete the convenient online contact form to learn more and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
     

     

  • Do I qualify for Workers' Compensation if my preexisting condition worsened?

    neck injury at work

     

    Under Iowa law a worsening of a preexisting condition is treated the same as a new injury.  If this work injury makes your previous condition worse in terms of pain, severity, or frequency, you would still be able to obtain Workers' Comp benefits.  Be prepared that your employer and their insurance company will try to argue that your current condition is related to your prior problem.  However, the medical testimony can typically establish that this worsening of your condition has occurred because of a work injury.  For example, if you had a bad back and a thorough medical examination reveals that your back problem has been aggravated or made worse by your work activities.  This would qualify you to receive benefits.  

     

     

  • Who chooses my doctor under Iowa workers’ compensation?

    When an Iowa employee is hurt in an accident at work or falls ill due to job conditions, he is typically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is a system that provides medical care and wage replacement for injured and ill employees. These benefits are meant to ensure that employees are able to recover as fully as possible, and state law requires most employers to provide this to employees at no cost to the employee. However, when the employer or his insurance company is paying the bill, they are able to exercise some control over the care.

    Employers Typically Are Able to Dictate Eligible Providers

    In general, Iowa employers choose the medical providers for injured and ill workers. When an employee sustains an injury, he should file a report with the employer as soon as possible. Once that claim is accepted, the employer will typically provide the injured worker with a list of approved providers. When a worker is treated by an approved provider, the employer is required to pay for the care.

    An employee may want to see a doctor not approved by his employer. In some cases, the employee and the employer may agree to an alternate provider. However, the employer is not obligated to do so and may deny the request. Should a worker choose to pursue care outside the approved list, the worker would be responsible to pay that bill out-of-pocket. It is also worth noting that many health insurance carriers will not pay for care if workers’ compensation benefits are available but unused.

    There Are Some Exceptions to Employer-Chosen Medical Care

    There are a few exceptions in which the injured employee is allowed to select his own provider. These exceptions cover situations in which the employee is unhappy with the care for a variety of reasons and those in which the employee disagrees with the impairment rating offered by an employer-selected physician. In both these cases, it can be possible to petition the workers’ compensation commission for a change in care or second opinion by a doctor of the employee’s choosing.
     

  • How much does it cost to hire an attorney for my Iowa workers’ compensation case?

    When on-the-job injuries or illnesses force employees to miss work, many seek benefits from the workers’ compensation system. This system provides medical care and wage replacement for injured workers when they are unable to perform their normal work duties. Not only can this time be stressful as the worker deals with a painful physical and emotional recovery, the financial strain can impact the entire family. It is natural to try to save money wherever possible, and many employees wonder if they can resolve their case without the help of a qualified attorney. While this can be true for small, straightforward cases, many workers’ compensation cases grow quickly complex, and the advice of an experienced attorney who has helped others navigate the system can be invaluable. Additionally, it is often much more easily managed than one might think.

    Contingency Fee Agreements Help Employees Obtain Quality Representation

    Many attorneys and clients will agree to what is known as a contingency fee agreement. In a contingency fee agreement, the client does not pay the attorney for his services unless the case is won. The attorney and the client agree on a percentage at the start of their relationship, and when the case is over, the legal fees will be drawn directly from the settlement. The injured worker does not have to pay the lawyer out of pocket, nor does he have to pay if the case is not resolved in his favor. For many injured workers, this system is a good option, especially for those who cannot afford an attorney’s hourly rate.

    Some Court-Related Items Do Not Fall Under a Contingency Fee Agreement

    The contingency fee agreement addresses only the fee charged by the lawyer for his knowledge and time. It does not cover some of the other costs associated with a workers’ compensation case, which may include:

    • Court filing fees
    • Records fees
    • Police report fees
    • Postage
    • Investigator fees
    • Expert witness fees

    Not all of these fees may be incurred in every case. Additionally, the attorney and the client should agree on how these fees will be handled before starting the case. Sometimes, these fees are paid by the client as they accrue, while other times it is agreed that those fees will also be taken from the settlement amount. If no settlement is obtained, the client may need to pay those fees out of pocket.

    It is best to discuss the fee agreement with your lawyer upfront, so there are no surprises as your case progresses. Effective representation can be affordable, however, and the lawyers at the Pothitakis Law Firm, P.C., are here to work with you as best we can.

    If you or someone you love is facing a workers’ compensation case, don’t risk your health or financial future by going it alone. Take a moment to fill out one of our online contact forms, and you’ll receive a prompt response from a member of our team who can help you learn more.
     

  • What is power of attorney?

    signing power of attorney document

    A power of attorney is a legal document that gives a designated person the authority to make personal, business, legal, and medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.  It's advisable to have both medical and financial powers of attorney.  If you become unable to make decisions for yourself and you don't have to go to court to establish the right to make those decisions in your stead. 

    A medical power of attorney allows someone to make medical decisions for you should you become physically or mentally incapacitated.  This person is bound to follow your treatment and end-of-life wishes.  It is important to create a living will to outline such wishes.  

    A financial power of attorney designates an individual who will take care of financial decision-making on your behalf.  When you draft the document with your attorney, you can give your power of attorney broad power or limited power.  The duties of a financial power of attorney end at the designator's death.  If you wish an individual to take care of your estate finances, you must also name him or her as executor in your will.  

    For more information on power of attorney, consult with a family law attorney.

  • How long will it take to settle a claim?

    This is a question that our office is asked all the time--and for good reason.  On top of daily living expenses, those with injuries have medical bills, lost wages, and oftentimes have years of expensive medical treatments and therapies ahead of them.  Unfortunately, there just isn't a clear-cut answer.  It could take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years.  

    The amount of medical treatment needed is the primary determinant of when a case will settle.  A patient must receive the maximum benefit of treatment and a long-term diagnosis before settlement takes place.  In the most traumatic cases, this means waiting longer, but it's necessary to recover for current and future medical expenses.  

    Preparing the documentation to send to an insurance company can draw the process out.  The extent of the injury, preexisting conditions, and the amount of work missed all require a great deal of documentation.  Something seemingly simple, like getting a response for medical records, can sometimes take repeated letters and phone calls.  The insurance company will play a part in how long a case takes to settle.  Some are more reasonable than others, but they will often refuse to pay a fair settlement.  At that point, a suit may be filed.  

    There are many factors that influence the length of settlement.  If you or a loved one has been injured, feel free to call our office for a confidential consultation.  

  • What are my rights if my employer retaliates against me for filing a Workers' Compensation claim?

    Several states protect workers from an employer who discriminates against an injured employee by harassment or unfair termination.  In these states, workers may sue their employer for "retaliatory damage" in civil court if the worker has been discriminated against or terminated because he or she filed a Workers' Compensation claim.  The injured worker must show that it was more likely than not that the termination was unjustified.  It is important to note that the worker does not have to show that the Workers' Compensation claim is the sole reason for his or her termination, but that the decision was based significantly on the claim. The worker may also experience retaliation in the form of a demotion or pay cut.  It will be necessary to discuss this type of case with an attorney experienced in Workers' Compensation to determine the best course of action to take.  

  • I may have injured my back at work. What is my responsibility in reporting this work injury to my Iowa employer?

    If you injured your back at work, you will need to report this injury to your Iowa employer within 90 days of the occurrence of the injury.  You should provide this notice in writing to your employer.  Under some circumstances Iowa law provides for extensions to this 90 day notice time limit.  Seek counsel from an experienced Workers' Compensation attorney who can help you receive the benefits your are entitled to by Iowa law.