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.