Get Your Questions Answered Today By Iowa Workers' Compensation Attorney Nicholas Pothitakis
After an on-the-job injury, you probably have a number of 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 compensation will I receive If I hurt my neck at work and have to have surgery?
In 2015, over 28,300 workers across the country experienced neck injuries serious enough to warrant a workers’ compensation claim. These injuries can be mild or severe, and a number of different treatment options exist.
Some Iowa workers find that less invasive care simply can’t relieve neck pain, and they are forced to undergo surgery. In those cases, the Iowa workers’ compensation system can provide payment for medical bills and wage replacement. Here, we take a closer look at neck injuries, treatments, and the effects on employees.
Why Are Neck Injuries So Prevalent Among Workers?
The neck comprises many different structures. Vertebrae, muscles, nerves, and ligaments make up the neck, which supports the head and is capable of a wide range of motion. This flexibility and a lack of protecting structures can leave the neck more vulnerable to injury than the rest of the body. Additionally, the neck is the uppermost portion of the spine, and an injury to the neck can have significant effects on the rest of the spinal column.
As a result, it is true both that it does not always take a great amount of force to create a serious neck injury, and also that high-energy situations (such as motor vehicle accidents) can cause significant damage. There are many work circumstances that can result in neck injuries, missed work time, and the need for medical care.
Common Neck Injuries for Iowa Employees
Neck injuries can be caused by a great many factors. Repetitive motions, falls, object strikes, vehicle accidents, and even stress can contribute to neck damage. Some of the most common neck injuries include:
- Nerve compression
- Muscle strain
- Disk degeneration (spondylosis)
The treatment options for these injuries depend on the unique circumstances and symptoms of each individual. Generally, rest and pain medication are the first step. Further treatments can include physical therapy, nerve stimulation, immobilization, and steroid injections. These options are often effective in relieving pain and helping injured workers get back to their normal lives. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and some employees require even more invasive treatment.
Surgery Is an Option for Significant Neck Injuries
In some cases, surgery is necessary to effectively address a neck injury. The most common reasons for neck surgery are:
- To remove damages structures causing nerve irritation.
- To stabilize the neck vertebrae.
- To decompress the spinal cord.
Though neck injuries requiring surgery are rare, they do occur. Depending on the type of procedure that is necessary, the recovery process can be slow. It may take months of rest and rehabilitation before an injured worker is able to return to any type of work. Many injured workers worry about how they will provide for themselves and their families during that time. Fortunately, it is possible to obtain Iowa workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits After a Surgery
The Iowa workers’ compensation system can cover the costs associated with the treatment of an injury related to work. If an employee requires neck surgery to address such an injury, he may be eligible for benefits. These benefits would cover the cost of medical treatment, including medications, surgery, hospital stays, rehabilitation, and more. In addition, there are a number of wage replacement benefits that could be appropriate. These include:
In some cases, a neck injury can result in permanent damage. Loss of use of limbs, limited movement, chronic pain, and more can all prevent an employee from ever returning to work in the same capacity as before the injury, if at all. In these cases, an employee may be eligible for:
- Permanent Partial Disability
- Permanent Total Disability
An Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help With a Claim
All the wage replacements benefits are offered biweekly at a percentage of the injured worker’s spendable earnings. To obtain wage replacement, it is often necessary to undergo a medical exam by a doctor selected by the employer or its insurance carrier. These exams are important in determining both eligibility and amount of compensation. Every situation is unique, and there are many factors that affect the compensation awarded to an injured worker.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help ensure that the medical exam and its findings are as beneficial as possible to the employee. Additionally, it can be necessary to dispute the determination the examiner to the worker’s compensation commission. A knowledgeable lawyer can help navigate the system, locate and present compelling evidence, and make sure the employee’s rights are protected.
If you or someone you love has suffered a neck injury and subsequent surgery, you may be able to obtain compensation for medical care and wage replacement. Download a copy of our book, 7 Things You Must Know If You Get Hurt at Work, for important information about Iowa workers’ compensation claims and helpful tips to protect your future.
Are there any time limitations for filing an Iowa workers’ compensation claim?
Work injuries in Iowa can take many forms. In some cases, an accident clearly and immediately results in an injury. At other times, the injury appears more gradually and can be more difficult to identify. Both these types of injuries can be addressed with workers’ compensation benefits if the claim is filed on time.
State rules set deadlines that must be met in order to obtain these benefits. Typically, a claim will be denied if these deadlines are not met. While there are some exceptions, it is important to understand these timelines to ensure you can obtain the medical care and wage replacement you need after a work-related injury.
Report the Injury to Your Iowa Employer Right Away
Employees in Iowa have 90 days to report a work-related injury to their employer. The law does not mandate the manner in which the injury be reported, but it is best to do so in writing. Employees can send an email or offer a written note describing the injury and how it occurred. Many employers will have an injured worker fill out an injury or accident form, but they are not required to do so. Regardless of how an employee chooses to report the injury, it is a good idea to keep a copy of the dated notice in case the time of notification becomes an issue later.
As noted previously, there are some cases in which the date of the injury is clear. If a piece of equipment falls and breaks an employee’s leg, the 90-day clock would begin on that day when the injury occurred. The start of other injuries, however, can be less clear. An employee who experiences the gradual onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, for example, may not be able to point to a specific moment when the injury occurred. In those cases, state rules give the employee 90 days to report the injury from the time he knew about the injury (or reasonably should have known).
The Employer Will Notify the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission
Once an injured worker reports his injury, the employer has four days to file a first report of injury with the state workers’ compensation commission. Most Iowa employers carry workers’ compensation insurance (rather than self-insure), so they will also notify their insurance carrier.
In some cases, an employer or its insurance company may balk at the claim. It is obligated, however, to respond to an employee’s work injury in a timely manner. If they make it difficult to file a claim, it is best to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to make sure your rights are being protected and your claim is given its proper consideration.
Other Statutes of Limitation Also Apply to Workers’ Compensation Claims
There are additional time limitations, as well. Injured workers only have so much time to pursue a claim and receive benefits from the Iowa workers’ compensation system. Those limits are:
- Two years. Benefits can be denied if a worker does not either receive benefits or a file an application for arbitration within two years of the date of the injury.
- Three years. If a worker has received compensation from the system, he has three years from the date of the last payment to file for additional benefits or file another action.
While this may seem like a long period of time, workers’ compensation claims can be complex, and it can take time to navigate the system. This is especially true in cases where there are questions about the legitimacy of the claim or objections from the employer. It is best to start as soon as possible to ensure that a claim has the best possible chance of success.
Exceptions to the Iowa Statutes of Limitation
At times, it is possible to file a claim outside the given window. The discovery rule allows injured workers a way around these statutes in some instances. It acknowledges that there are circumstances in which an employee may not be aware of the nature or seriousness of the injury. They may not even be aware that it is a compensable injury. These cases can be complex, but an experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorney can help.
Even if you may have missed the filing deadline, discuss your injuries with a lawyer who can make sure you understand your rights and options under the Iowa workers’ compensation system. At the Pothitakis Law Firm, our dedicated legal team is committed to making sure Iowa workers can obtain the medical care and full compensation they deserve after an injury. Call us today to find out more about how we may be able to help.
- Two years. Benefits can be denied if a worker does not either receive benefits or a file an application for arbitration within two years of the date of the injury.
Can I receive compensation for the rest of my life due to my back injury?
Every year, back injuries plague thousands of American workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 155,000 cases of work-related back injuries in 2015.
Back injuries can encompass a wide range of problems, and there are many different management options available depending on the type and severity of injury. For many, a simple course of treatment will resolve the issue so the employee can get back to work. For others, however, a back injury can be a persistent and painful problem that can prevent them from working and may not ever fully heal. In these cases, Iowa workers’ compensation benefits exist that can help ensure the security and success of permanently injured employees. Learn more about the benefit options here.
Back Injuries Are Common Across Many Iowa Industries
Back injuries are one of the leading causes of workers’ compensation claims across the country. These injuries fall under the category of musculoskeletal disorders, which accounted for nearly one-third of all work-related injuries in 2015. Back injuries occurred in nearly every area of the workforce—from office buildings to construction sites. While many people assume a back problem is the result of a specific incident, they can also be caused over time by small repetitive movements, reaching overhead, remaining in the same position for too long, or simple bending.
For many injured workers, medications, rehabilitation, or surgery may help relieve the symptoms and offer a chance at recovery. In some cases, however, medical interventions cannot offer a return to complete health. For these Iowa workers, persistent symptoms can prevent them from working or working in the same capacity as before the injury. These symptoms can include:
- Limited movement
Workers’ Compensation Permanent Disability Benefits Can Be Available
The Iowa workers’ compensation system recognizes that workers can and do experience permanent injuries, and it offers different types of benefits to address a different types of injuries. The two main types of benefits for permanent injuries are:
- Permanent Total Disability: benefits for an employee whose injury leaves her incapable of ever returning to employment.
- Permanent Partial Disability: benefits for an employee who experiences a permanent injury but is capable of working in some capacity.
The state of Iowa offers some of the most generous compensation benefits in the country, and both these types of benefits pay 80 percent of the worker’s spendable weekly earnings, up to a set maximum.
Once it has been determined that the worker has reached maximum recovery for his injury, the extent of the injury will be examined. The severity of the injury—whether it is complete or partial—will determine the type and amount of compensation that a worker can obtain. This will also affect how long the benefits will be paid.
Benefits for Permanent Partial Disability Injuries in Iowa
While some injuries are permanent, it is also true that they do not completely hinder a worker’s ability to maintain employment. In those cases, the compensation is determined differently. Once maximum recovery has been reached, a doctor will decide an impairment rating, which is a percentage equal to the degree of impairment. Compensation will be equal to that rating. This means that if a doctor determines that a worker’s impairment rating is 50 percent, he would be entitled to half of the maximum weeks of pay for that injury. Back injuries in Iowa are typically payable up to 500 weeks. So, in this example, the worker would be entitled to 80 percent of his average spendable earnings for 250 weeks.
This medical exam and rating are very important, as they determine how long an employee can receive benefits for a partial disability. Every injury is different, and an experienced workers’ compensation employee can help injured employees obtain the maximum benefit.
Healing Period Benefits Can Provide Compensation During Recovery
For those who suffer a permanent partial disability, healing period benefits are also available. These benefits are offered during the recovery period. These benefits also pay 80 percent of the spendable weekly earnings. There is no set time frame for healing period benefits. Once maximum recovery has been reached, the healing period would end and PPD benefits would begin. Thus, it is possible to obtain compensation for longer than just the number of weeks set by the PPD schedule.
Benefits for Permanent Total Disability Injuries in Iowa
If it is determined that the injured worker has a permanent total disability, he would be entitled to receive compensation for the length of the disability. This could mean a period of months or years, or for life. Total disabilities do not have to adhere to the set maximum of 500 weeks.
Every injury and situation is different, even those that affect the same body part. If you have suffered a work-related back injury in Iowa, you may be eligible for compensation—but it is very difficult to calculate the level of benefits you deserve. The experienced workers’ compensation team at the Pothitakis Law Firm can help you learn more about your rights and obtain the maximum award for your injuries. Call us today at (888) 459-7613 to schedule a free consultation.
Do I Need An Attorney For My Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Every year, thousands of Iowa workers file a workers’ compensation claim after a work-related illness or injury. Workers’ compensation benefits in the state have been among the most generous across the country, and the U.S. Department of Labor states that Iowa paid out over $241 million is medical benefits and lost wages. For all those who receive benefits, however, there are thousands of others whose claims were denied. So, while the law does not require injured workers to hire an attorney, it is usually a good idea.
What Can an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Do For Me?
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can ease some of the burden on an injured worker and his family. The time after an injury can be stressful and difficult, as the employee begins the often trying physical and emotional recovery process. With an attorney attending to the often confusing and time-consuming legal matters, injured workers can focus on what really matters. A workers’ compensation attorney can help by:
- Preparing documents. Workers’ compensation claims involve a large amount of paperwork. An attorney can ensure that forms are filled out completely so the commission has all the information it needs to approve a claim.
- Meeting filing deadlines. Many claims are denied simply because they were not made in time. Deadlines are important, and your attorney should know when, where, and how to file a claim.
- Investigating and gathering evidence. Most workers’ compensation cases require the injured worker to provide information and evidence to support the injury claim. Medical documents, witness statements, and expert testimony can be secured to provide the support to ensure a claim has the best chance for approval.
- Attending hearings. In some cases, it is necessary to appear for a hearing. With the help of an attorney, an injured worker can adequately prepare and be ready to discuss his case with confidence.
- Negotiating with insurance companies. Insurance companies and employers are out to minimize the financial damage any way they can. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer understands their tactics and will pursue a maximum settlement.
Certain Situations Require the Knowledge of an Experienced Lawyer
While it can be possible to represent yourself in situations where the injury is straightforward and the recovery is brief, there are circumstances that are exceedingly difficult to handle alone. These times include when:
- Your employer denies your claim. An appeals process exists for Iowa workers, and it can be possible to still receive benefits even after a denial. The process does become more difficult, however, and typically requires an appearance before the commission.
- Your employer retaliates against you after a claim. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an injured employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Retaliation can take many forms, including termination, pay reduction, demotion, hours reduction, and more.
- You receive Social Security disability benefits. These benefits can complicate a tax liability and reduce the amount of compensation actually received. An attorney can help minimize this effect as much as possible.
- You suffer a permanent disability. When you suffer a permanent disability, the consequences can be felt for the rest of your life. Accepting an unfair settlement or being denied one altogether can cause unnecessary hardship and stress for years to come.
The Cost of Not Hiring an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney
While the decisions of a workers’ compensation commission do not take place in court, the decisions are binding and can have a significant impact on the injured worker and his family. If your claim is denied, it can mean the loss of vital income. When the stakes are so high, it is best to make sure that your case is as complete and thorough as it can be. Typically, injured workers have little experience with legal matters and the workers’ compensation system. An experienced attorney has been there before. He knows what an injured worker deserves, and he can help anticipate problems, navigate the system, and negotiate with confidence.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury at work, you may be eligible for Iowa workers’ compensation benefits. At the Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced legal team helps injured workers obtain the medical care and compensation that can help them face the future with security and confidence. Call us at (888) 459-7613 to learn more about your rights and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
- Preparing documents. Workers’ compensation claims involve a large amount of paperwork. An attorney can ensure that forms are filled out completely so the commission has all the information it needs to approve a claim.
How do I know whether I am eligible for Iowa workers’ compensation benefits?
If you have suffered a work-related injury in Iowa, it may be possible to obtain workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical care and loss of income during your recovery and disability periods. These benefits are available to most workers in the state, but how can you know for sure if you qualify? Here, we explain who is considered an employee and how to determine if you are eligible for this important compensation.
Most Employers Are Required to Provide Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Nearly all employers are required by law to purchase workers’ compensation insurance in the state of Iowa to provide for employees who are injured at work. Any employee of a company that is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance could be eligible to obtain a number of different types of benefits.
Only Employees Can Obtain Iowa Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Generally, workers are considered employees and can obtain medical care payment and wage reimbursement if they meet any of three requirements, which include:
- They were hired in Iowa.
- They are working in Iowa.
- They are working for a company primarily based in Iowa.
In certain situations, a worker is not considered an employee of the business or is otherwise ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These ineligible workers include:
- Domestic and casual employees who earn less than $1,500 from the employer in the months prior to the injury.
- Certain agricultural employees.
- Exchange laborers.
- Police officers and firefighters entitled to other state benefits.
- A sole proprietor or partner of a business.
- Members of a limited liability company.
- Independent contractors.
While independent contractors are typically ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits, there are certain situations in which these workers could successfully pursue a workers’ compensation claim. State law mandates that the nature of the job duties, not the title of the position, dictates eligibility. If the employer controls the type of work and the hours, offers health benefits, provides weekly or monthly paychecks, and determines other circumstances surrounding the job, the worker may still be considered an employee and thus eligible for benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Covers Only Injuries Directly Related to the Job
Once it is determined that a worker is, in fact, an eligible employee, it is also important to consider where the injury occurred. Workers’ compensation benefits exist only to cover damages that are related to an injury that was sustained in the course of employment. While the injury may not have occurred at the office, it still must be directly tied to job duties. This can include illnesses and injuries that happen at job sites, on travel for business, during company-sponsored events, and related situations. Injuries that happen at home or during one’s own personal time cannot be compensated under the system.
The Cause of the Injury Can Also Affect Benefits Eligibility in Iowa
Finally, the cause of the injury will play an important role in determining workers’ compensation eligibility. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system for employees, which means that employees can obtain benefits even if they were wholly or partially at fault for the accident or injury. There are, however, specific exceptions to this rule, which include injuries that are sustained:
- During a fight at work.
- While the employee is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- In direct violation of stated company policy.
- As a result of an employee’s intent to injure himself.
- Due to an act of a third party for personal reasons.
An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help Your Claim
Workers’ compensation benefits ensure that injured workers are able to secure the medical care they need and provide vital compensation during a time when the ability to earn income is diminished. These benefits can have a significant impact on an employee and his family and their future, so it is best to ensure that every aspect of an injury case is examined and addressed.
In some cases, the rights of a worker may be called into question. It is possible that an employer or its insurance company will dispute an employee’s status or question how an injury occurred to avoid paying a claim. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help injured workers support their claims by investigating the accident, obtaining medical records, securing expert witnesses, interpreting the law, and developing a clear and comprehensive case when necessary.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury or illness at work, you may be eligible to pursue an Iowa workers’ compensation claim. Call the experienced attorneys at the Pothitakis Law Firm today to learn more about your rights as an employee and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
What type of compensation can I receive after back surgery for a workplace injury?
Back injuries are very common among American workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that back problems are the leading cause of disability for those in their working years, with more than one million workers suffering a back injury every year. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that nearly a quarter of all paid workers’ compensation claims were filed because of injuries to the back, and the majority of these involved the lower back. These injuries often develop over time with repetitive behaviors, though some do occur as the result of a single incident.
Common Causes of Back Injuries for Iowa Workers
Back injuries occur commonly due in part to the structure of the body and in part to the nature of employment. The back is made up of many small bones, muscles, tendons, disks, and nerves. When any one of these small parts is strained, stretched, or pulled out of place, it can cause pain that can make it difficult to perform even simple tasks.
Additionally, there are many different types of conditions that contribute to back pain—from jobs that require a great amount of physical exertion to those that require none at all. Some common causes of work-related back pain include:
- Inactivity. Sitting at a desk or standing in one position for a prolonged period of time can cause injury, especially for those with poor posture. It is important to sit on appropriately supportive chairs and take periodic breaks to move around.
- Repetition. Performing the same movements over and over, especially bending and twisting, is a common cause of back injury.
- Heavy lifting. One of the most common causes of back injury and pain, lifting and moving cargo or other goods can put extreme pressure on the back. Workers should use assistive devices whenever possible to help lift objects at work.
- Vibration. Continued vibration, such as that experienced by truck or delivery drivers, can misalign the back or cause other injury.
- Poor footing. Slippery or uneven floors and other conditions can lead to falls, trips, and slips that can injure the back.
Back Injury Treatment Options Can Include Surgery
When an employee is experiencing back pain, orthopedic doctors will typically perform a number of tests to determine the exact scope of the injury and decide on the best treatment option. It is often possible to address the injury with minimally invasive options. Many times, however, a back injury will require surgery. The most common types of surgery for lower back pain are:
- Spinal fusion. This operation fuses together two or more vertebrae so they heal together to form one solid bone. Full recovery from this type of surgery can take up to year or more.
- Disk replacement. This procedure replaces an injured disk with an artificial part, much like a hip or knee replacement surgery.
Both of these options, and others that seek to repair an injured back, are typically very invasive and can be accompanied by the normal risks associated with anesthesia and surgery. Recovery includes physical therapy and may be a slow process.
Iowa Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Back Surgery
If your back injury is the result of a work condition or accident, Iowa workers’ compensation can provide for your medical care and wage replacement while you miss work. The medical care benefits will cover the cost of:
- Hospital stays.
- Transportation to doctor visits and related appointments.
- Medical devices for home and car if necessary.
Additionally, wage replacement benefits provide compensation while you miss work to recover. Temporary total disability benefits offer 80 percent of the injured worker’s spendable weekly earnings when you are unable to work at all following back surgery until you can return to work.
Unfortunately, in some cases, a full recovery will not be possible. When an employee cannot return to work or cannot return at the same level as before the injury, other benefits are available. Permanent total disability and permanent partial disability benefits also pay 80 percent of the injured worker’s spendable weekly earnings. Total disability benefits are paid continually, while partial benefits are paid on a schedule as set by the state commission.
If you or someone you love has suffered a back injury at work, you may be eligible for compensation, and the experienced legal team at the Pothitakis Law Firm may be able to help. Download a free copy of our book, 7 Things You Must Know If You Get Hurt at Work, to learn more about protecting your family today.
If I must have shoulder surgery for a work-related injury, will my employer pay my medical expenses?
In short, yes. Work injuries prevent employees from doing their jobs and earning their wages. They can also cause employees to accrue costly medical bills. To prevent employees from suffering undue hardship when they are injured at work, employers in Iowa are required to either purchase workers’ compensation insurance or self-insure. Then, when an employee suffers an on-the-job injury, either the insurance company or the employer can help the employee address the costs of the injury. Injuries are very common among employees across the U.S., with millions of work injuries reported each year.
Common Types of Work-Related Shoulder Injuries
Shoulder injuries are fairly common among workers’ compensation claims. These injuries can be the result of a one-time accident, but they also often develop over time due to repetitive use or stress. The shoulder is made up of multiple joints, tendons, and muscles. These structures allow a greater range of motion than most other areas of the body. Unfortunately, this complexity also leaves the shoulder more vulnerable to injury.
Some of the most common shoulder injuries include:
- Shoulder dislocation
- Frozen shoulder
Many shoulder ailments will be first addressed by minimally invasive treatments, including medication, rest, physical therapy, and injections. When these options do not provide relief from pain or promote healing, surgery is often necessary.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Can Provide the Care You Need
When you suffer an injury or illness related to your work, the Iowa workers’ compensation system can provide benefits to ensure you receive the proper medical care and to help you remain financially secure. Workers’ compensation offers benefits to those who have suffered a work-related injury, which the state defines as “any health condition caused by work activities other than the normal building up and tearing down of body tissues.” A shoulder injury, if caused by job-related circumstances, would fall under this category. Additionally, the system covers all “reasonable and necessary” medical care related to such an injury, which can include:
- Doctor visits
- Hospital stays
- Medical equipment
- Transportation to and from appointments
Care Is Provided Under the Guidelines of the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission
To obtain this care, injured workers will have to be sure to follow the guidelines set forth by the workers’ compensation commission. You must:
- See an approved doctor. In Iowa, the employer or its insurance company has the right to choose your doctor. In some cases, your preferred doctor may be among the approved providers. If he or she is not, however, you must seek care from an appropriate caregiver approved by your employer. If you do not, the employer will not be required to pay for your care.
- Prove your injury was work-related. Workers’ compensation provides benefits only for injuries that are suffered on the job or as a direct result of job duties. Therefore, it is necessary to show that your injury was sustained specifically because of work conditions. This is often the most complicated aspect of these cases, but medical records, expert testimony, work incident reports, and other witnesses can all offer information to back up your claim. Additionally, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you investigate and prepare a thorough claim to ensure you obtain the care and compensation you deserve.
Iowa Workers’ Compensation Can Also Provide Wage Replacement Benefits
In addition to paying for your surgery and related medical care, the Iowa workers’ compensation system offers injured workers wage replacement benefits. Typically, when an injured worker has to undergo shoulder surgery, he or she is forced to miss work while healing and recovering. During that time, temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits can be available. In some cases, even surgery cannot fully correct the damage done to the shoulder. For those injured workers, permanent disability benefits may be available. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help employees understand their options and pursue a claim to obtain the compensation they deserve.
If you or someone you love has suffered a work-related injury and must undergo surgery, call the dedicated workers’ compensation attorneys at the Pothitakis Law Firm. Our knowledgeable legal team can help you learn more about your rights and work with you to ensure you receive the care and compensation you need.
When do I get paid if I am off work as a result of my workers’ compensation injury?
You’ve suffered a work-related illness or injury, and you were forced to miss work. For many people, this is a worrisome situation. Missed work and lost wages can have a significant and immediate effect on families and lifestyles. So it is natural to want to know what to expect from the workers’ compensation system. It is possible to receive compensation fairly quickly to minimize any unnecessary burdens on the injured worker and his family. Here, we share the basics about the amount of compensation and how it is paid to employees.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Are Offered Weekly
An injured employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if he sustains an injury that causes him to miss more than three days of work due to that injury. Benefits begin on the fourth day and will continue until the employee has returned to work or has been cleared by a doctor as capable of returning to work.
Payments begin on the 11th day following the injury. If payments are late, the injured worker can be entitled to additional penalty compensation. Typically, the initial three days are not compensated. However, if the injury or illness causes the employee to miss more than 14 days of work, those three days will be paid. These payments cover lost wages, medical bills, and payments for vocational rehabilitation if appropriate.
How Much Can I Expect to Be Paid From Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation benefits cover all medical expenses related to the workplace injury and illness, including doctors’ and hospital bills, medications, necessary supplies or devices, rehabilitation treatment, and even the cost of transportation to and from appointments. These costs are fairly easy to calculate, as they can be determined by adding up the appropriate bills.
Additionally, the system offers wage replacement. These benefits do not cover the full amount of a lost paycheck, but the compensation is based on a portion of what the employee was earning at the time of the accident. In Iowa, wage replacement is typically offered at 80 percent of the employee’s weekly spendable earnings, with a maximum of $1,688 per week. According to the state commission, the average weekly workers’ compensation payment is $843 per week. When calculating these payments, the commission does not include bonuses, overtime, expense reimbursement, expense allowances, or retroactive pay.
For employees who are eligible for temporary partial disability, the compensation is calculated differently. These workers have returned to work, but they have not fully recovered and have returned to lesser paying duties. In Iowa, these employees are entitled to benefits to address the gap in their wages. This benefit is calculated at two-thirds (66 2/3 percent) of the difference between the pay before the injury and the pay after. The three-day waiting period applies to these situations, as well.
Unfortunately, there are times when the employee’s injury or illness results in death. The surviving dependent family member may be eligible for death benefits from the workers’ compensation system. Children can receive payments until age 18 or age 25 if dependent. A surviving spouse can receive payments for life or until he or she is remarried. The family may also eligible for compensation for burial expenses up to set limits.
Ensuring Prompt Approval and Payment of Benefits in Iowa
When you are hurt on the job, you need to act in a timely manner. Injured employees should report their injuries to their employers as soon as possible. Not only does this set up a strong case, it allows the system to begin the process of paying benefits as quickly as possible. Iowa employees have 90 days from the date of the injury to report that injury to their employer, and any claims filed after 90 days could be denied regardless of merit.
If you or someone you love has suffered a work-related injury in Iowa, the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Pothitakis Law Firm may be able to help. Our dedicated legal team can help you understand your rights and ensure that you are able to obtain the benefits you deserve. Request a copy of our free book, 7 Things You Must Know if You Get Hurt at Work, today to learn more.
Can I be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
When an employee suffers a workplace injury or illness, he or she naturally has many concerns. Health and financial concerns are among the most common. The Iowa workers’ compensation system aims to help employees overcome these obstacles by providing for the employee’s medical care and lost wages. However, injured employees may hesitate to seek these important benefits because they are worried about retaliation from their employer. When an employee obtains these benefits, the employer (or its insurance company) must pay the worker the appropriate wages and cover their medical bills. Sometimes, employees fear that the employer will not want to pay what is due and terminate employment to avoid this expense. In general, this behavior is not allowed under the law.
Iowa Public Policy Prevents Employer Retaliation Against Injured Workers
Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act, an employer is prohibited from retaliating against or terminating the employment of a worker simply for filing a workers’ compensation claim. In the 1988 court case Springer v. Weeks and Leo Co., Inc., the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of an employee who claimed she had been fired for pursuing a workers’ compensation claim after developing carpal tunnel syndrome on the job. The court stated that terminating an employee for exercising a right to benefits was against the public policy of the state of Iowa. Additionally, state policy protects employees not just from termination but also from other forms of retaliation, including:
- Reduction in pay
- Shift or position change
- Unfounded disciplinary actions
Proving an Employer Has Retaliated After a Workers’ Compensation Claim
There are specific criteria that must be met to show that an employer has acted against state policy. These four elements are:
- You are an employee entitled to benefits. Not every worker is considered an employee of a business. There are certain exceptions, including independent contractors, who may not be eligible.
- You filed a claim acceptable under state rules. An injured employee must file a claim in good faith. Even if a workers’ compensation claim is ultimately denied, as long as the employee was acting in an honest manner, he can be protected. An employee who files a fraudulent claim, however, may not be entitled to same protection.
- You suffered some negative repercussion as a result of that claim. Simply, the injured worker was fired or suffered some other form of retaliation, including those mentioned previously.
- Your employer took that action in response to your claim. This can often be the most difficult element to prove. Some indications that the employer’s action was a response to the benefits claim include timing, reaction (if managers displayed anger toward the employee), deviation from past company practice, multiple or changing reasons for the employment change, and a history of retaliation against other employees.
If you have experienced negative consequences at work after filing a workers’ compensation claim, it is important to stand up for yourself. An experienced attorney can help you examine your situation and determine exactly what your rights are in each unique situation.
A Workers’ Compensation Claim Cannot Protect Employees Entirely
There are situations in which an employee can experience a negative work change that is protected by the law, however. Just because an injured worker has filed a workers’ compensation claim, it does not mean she cannot be fired for other reasons. There are a number of situations in which an employer is within its rights to change the work status of an injured worker, including:
- Company downsizing
- Just cause for termination (unrelated to the injury)
- The employee is unable to perform job duties
Injured Employees Can Obtain Compensation for Employer Retaliation
If an injured employee is fired or otherwise retaliated against simply because of a workers’ compensation claim, the employer can be held accountable. The employee can obtain both the workers’ compensation benefits he deserves, as well as:
- Back pay
- Compensation for losses related to termination, such as the expense of looking for a new job
- Front pay (wages you would have earned going forward) or reinstatement of employment
- Attorney’s fees
If you or someone you love has been treated unfairly or wrongly terminated after a workplace injury, you have rights in Iowa that can be protected. Contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys the Pothitakis Law Firm today to talk with a member of our team and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
What is lost earning capacity in a worker's compensation case?
When it comes to determining workers’ compensation benefits, no two situations are alike. For every employee and every injury, a unique set of circumstances shapes the landscape of what the benefits and the future will look like.
Compensation is determined by a combination of many of these different factors. Some are concrete and can be easily calculated, such as medical bills and lost past wages. Others, however, are less clear and can be left to the discretion of the court or adjusted in negotiation with insurance companies. One important element in these cases is lost earning capacity. Workers’ compensation law in Iowa recognizes that a work injury may affect the employee’s ability to earn income going forward, and lost earning capacity attempts to address that loss.
Lost Earning Capacity Identifies Income That Will Be Lost in the Future
Lost earning capacity, sometimes called future loss of earning or impairment of earning power, refers to the fact that an injured employee may not be able to earn the income he might have if not for the injury. It attempts to address how an injury will affect a person’s ability to earn income in the future and how a person’s career would have proceeded without the injury. For example, if a police officer is struck by a car on the job and suffers a shoulder injury that prevents him from performing his duties now and in the future, his employment future is changed. He may not be able to advance as would have without the burden of the injury, or he may not even be able to continue to work as a police officer at all.
Determining lost earning capacity can be a complicated process, as obviously it is difficult to predict the future. Simply multiplying wages may not provide a clear picture of what could be lost, as many people experience improvements in talent and skill that can lead to promotions and pay raises over the years.
Factors That Affect Lost Earning Capacity in Iowa Workers’ Compensation Cases
In an attempt to best address lost earning capacity as fairly as possible, a variety of factors are considered. These can include:
- Medical condition before the injury.
- Medical condition immediately after the injury.
- Current medical condition.
- The part of the body injured.
- Length of recovery.
- Work experience.
- Intellectual, emotional, and physical capacity to learn to perform other work.
- Earnings before and after the injury.
- Functional impairment related to the injury.
- Loss of ability to do your old job.
- Loss of earnings because of the injury.
Many of these factors will require support from corroborating documents or the testimony of an expert witness. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help an injured worker gather the appropriate medical records, employment and education history, financial papers, and more. In addition, a skilled attorney know what expert witnesses are appropriate and can find them, interview them, and make sure their testimony is heard to support the claim.
Lost Earning Capacity Can Play an Important Role in Your Future
If you’ve suffered a serious injury on the job and you will not be able to make a full recovery, the future can seem uncertain. In these cases, it is important that the courts or insurance adjustors understand the full impact the injury will have on you and your family going forward.
Lost earning capacity is intended to ensure that injured employees are able to maintain a safe and secure future. Unfortunately, it is common for insurance companies to dispute many aspects of a case in an attempt to save money. Lost earning capacity can be a gray area, and an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help make sure your interests are protected and you are able to obtain the compensation you deserve.
If you or someone you love has suffered a work-related injury, the experienced attorneys at the Pothitakis Law Firm may be able to help. Call our Iowa legal team today at 1-888-488-7485 so we can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at one of our two convenient locations.