Get Your Questions Answered Today By Burlington, IA Injury Attorney Nicholas Pothitakis
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If I injure my back at work, is compensation available?
In 2015, more than 155,000 American workers suffered a back injury on the job. Back injuries are among the most common work-related injuries, and they affect employees in a wide variety of fields. Whether you sit at a desk all day or if your job requires continuous physical exertion, workers of all kinds have experienced this painful and debilitating type of injury. Fortunately, the workers’ compensation system does address back injuries, and compensation is available for injured Iowa employees.
Common Causes of Work-Related Back Injuries in Iowa
Back injuries can result from a wide variety of causes. They can occur after a single incident or over time after many smaller, repetitive injuries. Some of the most common factors that contribute to a back injury include:
- Poor posture
- Repetitive lifting and twisting
- Heavy lifting
- Maintaining bent posture
- Vibration (typically associated with machinery or large trucks)
- Unstable footing (slippery floors, uneven floors)
- Lack of strength or endurance for work tasks
These factors and more contribute to a large number of back injuries every year. While it can be difficult to avoid some of these situations in different types of jobs, employees can take care to ensure they are following all the proper precautions to protect their health.
Recognize the Symptoms of a Back Injury to Obtain Treatment and Compensation
Unfortunately, these injuries do occur despite care and precautions. In some cases, the injury is so traumatic that is clear medical attention is needed and needed immediately. Often, however, the signs and symptoms of these injuries are ignored or overlooked over time. Workers attribute their pain to simple daily fatigue or aging. This can be troublesome for both your health and your workers’ compensation claim. Injured employees should seek care as soon as they experience any injury. Though every person may experience symptoms differently, some common signs of a back injury include:
- Muscle ache
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Pain that radiates down into your legs
- Numbness or weakness in the extremities
- Hunching posture
- Difficulty breathing or coughing
- Reduced range of motion or flexibility
It is possible to experience a wide range of symptoms, so whether you have been involved in an accident at work or you begin to develop symptoms over time, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Back Injuries in Iowa
Many back injuries can be successfully treated with the proper medical care. These injuries can be difficult to address, however, as they can linger or even cause permanent damage. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), back injury is the leading cause of disability for employees. The Iowa workers’ compensation system offers a number of medical care and wage replacement benefits that cover a wide range of circumstances. Employees who suffer a back injury may be eligible for:
- Temporary partial disability
- Temporary total disability
- Healing period
- Permanent partial disability
- Permanent total disability
Typically, these benefits offer up to 80 percent of the employee’s weekly spendable earnings, based on the income earned in the time leading up to the injury. These payments can be awarded for as long as the injury prevents the employee from returning to work—for a period of weeks, months, or even years.
What Is an Industrial Injury, and How Does it Affect My Compensation?
Permanent back injuries are somewhat unique in that they can be considered as what is known as an industrial disability. This refers to disabilities that affect the body as a whole, rather than one specific scheduled member. Compensation for these types of injuries is based on a medical exam. A doctor will determine the level of impairment and offer a rating as a percentage. Payment will be awarded equal to that percentage. This determination is critical, as it directly affects the compensation an injured employee can receive. There are no specific guidelines that state how the specific factors should be considered, so every case is unique.
An experienced attorney can be extremely helpful in cases involving back injuries. Insurance companies will seek any reason to avoid payment, including questioning the nature and timeline of the injury—especially for cumulative injuries—as well as the impairment rating. At Pothitakis Law Firm, our dedicated Iowa workers’ compensation legal team helps injured workers prepare and state a comprehensive case to ensure they are able to obtain the maximum amount of compensation available. If you or someone you love has suffered a work-related back injury, call our office nearest you, or fill out the contact form on this page for a prompt response from our team.
Do I qualify for Workers' Compensation if my preexisting condition worsened?
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.
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.
If a worker sustains a back injury, how is this injury compensated in accordance with Iowa Workers' Compensation Law?
If you injure any part of your back (lower, middle, upper) at work, you have the right to benefits under Iowa Workers' Compensation Laws. In particular, lower back work injuries can drastically affect a worker's ability to do his or her job. And so being, these types of injuries are considered significant in the Iowa Workers' Compensation system. How your back injury/limitations affect your ability to work is the most important element that determines the amount of money the system will pay for your work related injury. When an Iowa worker sustains a permanent injury to their back, they have the right to benefits according to how the injury affects their ability to work and earn a living. Benefits such as these are called "industrial disability benefits." At some point there will be a determination of how the injury will affect your ability to work. This is presented in percentage terms. For example, if you lost 50 percent of your ability to work, you would have the right under Iowa law to 50 percent of 500 weeks (amount set by law) or 250 weeks of Iowa work comp benefits for this injury. Under the Iowa Work Comp system, back injuries are frequently pursued being that there are a substantial number of job positions that are made impossible for workers who suffer permanent lower back injuries and limitations.