Questions We Are Asked Each Week By Clients...
We are often asked questions like how much should the insurance company pay? How are my weekly benefits calculated?, etc. So we have put together some of the questions we here the most and the answers to them. We hope this helps you avoid making a mistake in your Iowa personal injury, car accident, dog bite, work injury or other injury matter.
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Can I Reopen an Old Workers’ Compensation Claim if My Injury has Worsened?
Have You Settled Your Case Properly?
The first thing to look at is whether you "settled" your case? There are 3 basic types of settlements:
1. Agreement for settlement;
2. Agreement for settlement with full commutation; and
3. Compromise settlement;
The only type of these settlements you can reopen is an agreement for settlement which is what is commonly called an "open file". The other settlements include a lump-sum payment in exchange for a "closed file" which means your medical care ends, your benefits end, and you give up your right to reopen your case. In order to successfully reopen an agreement for settlement the law requires you to prove one or more of the following items:
(1) a worsening of the claimant's physical condition;
(2) a reduction of the claimant's earning capacity;
(3) a temporary disability developing into a permanent disability;
(4) a critical fact existed but was unknown or could not have been discovered by the exercise of reasonable diligence at the time of the prior settlement or award; or
(5) a scheduled member injury later causes an industrial disability.
One of the most common types of what is called a review-reopening petition is when an injured worker has permanent work restrictions which the employer accommodates and then the employer decides they no longer want to or can accommodate the work restrictions and the worker is fired. Also, sometimes we will see a person who has sustained a foot or knee injury for example which causes them to walk differently (called an altered or antalgic gait) develop back or hip pain. This can also trigger your right to review-reopen the case.
Keep in mind that the worsening of your medical condition will need to be documented by doctors. Often it will involve additional medical examinations and an independent medical examination with a doctor of your choice. Generally, the worsening of your medical condition can be proven through an increase in your impairment rating, additional work restrictions, additional medical care in some cases like surgery, etc. These are not always easy cases for injured workers to win as the judges do not necessarily like to hear the same case on more than one occasion.
At our office, we will not rush you into settling your case on a closed file basis giving up your right to review-reopen your case. There are some cases when this is the best option, but there are many others where we recommend either an agreement for settlement or a trial which gets you to the same place, an open file.
What if I Cashed the Workers' Comp Checks?
Keep in mind that if you have not signed any settlement paperwork but have cashed the checks the insurance company sent you then you have not settled your case and the above probably does not apply to you. However, the statute of limitations which can be as short as 2 years still applies to you so at the very least you should seek the advice of a qualified workers' compensation attorney to see if you may be owed additional compensation.
What if I Did Not Settle, But Had a Trial Instead?
In effect, going to trial and receiving an arbitration decision is the same thing as an agreement for settlement. You can successfully reopen your case if you file the petition for review-reopening within the time deadlines and you meet the legal requirements described above.
Have You Waited Too Long?
The general rule in Iowa is to successfully bring a review-opening petition it must be filed within 3 years of when you last received a payment of workers' compensation indemnity benefits such as TTD, TPD or PPD. Most commonly this would be payment of PPD (permanent partial disability) benefits. This is called the statute of limitations and there are few exceptions to get around these strict time deadlines. If you think you may qualify for review-reopening, then you should immediately contact an Iowa workers' compensation attorney with experience to answer your question.
Also, this question is complicated by the fact that in 2017, the Iowa legislature led by Republicans radically changed our workers' compensation laws by reducing compensation to injured workers, making it harder for them to recover, etc. Most of the new laws went into effect on July 1, 2017, such that your date of injury may play a role in the amount of time you have. The only potential good change made to the new law is that if your case is properly resolved, then there is an argument to be made that you do not have a statute of limitations on your case and if you are terminated later on and do not find new employment making the same or more money than you were making at the time you were injured you may be allowed to reopen your case. However, it will be many years before this issue is decided by Iowa appeals courts so do not take it for granted that this right exists. The best practice is to consult with a qualified Iowa workers' compensation attorney to find out how the new laws may apply to your case.
Our office has been handling workers' compensation cases for injured workers throughout Iowa for more than 20 years. We are here to answer your questions, tell you if you even need an attorney or not and help you with the process if you need an attorney and you decide we are best for you and your case.
If you are considering even calling an attorney, the go-to Google and search for the attorney and/or go to an attorney review page like www.Avvo.com and look-up what the attorneys past clients have to say. In addition to what clients have said about us online, we have real clients telling you about their experience at www.OurClientsTalk.com.
What to do if You Suffer Whiplash from an Accident?
The medical term for what is commonly known as "whiplash" is called a "cervical strain". The cervical part of your body is your neck and strain basically means that the muscles and/or tendons have been injured. Sometimes these injuries are so severe that the muscles and tendons will actually tear. However, this tearing will not show up on an x-ray or physical examination performed by a medical provider. Sometimes whiplash injuries to the neck can have long-term and devastating effects. They can cause a permanent loss in the range of motion in the neck which will limit how far you can turn your neck to the sides and up and down, they can cause debilitating neck pain and stiffness which can lead to headaches and in some severe cases, loss of use of your hands, arms and legs. Whiplash injuries may seem minor at first but can result in a lifetime full of medical problems.
Whiplash injuries can occur in several different ways including car accidents, work injuries, falls and other personal injury accidents. A percentage of whiplash injuries will heal within a few weeks or months following an accident, but it is very important that you seek medical care immediately. Failing to seek medical care will not only result in your condition not being properly treated but can also have a negative impact on a personal injury claim that you may bring later on. If you wait days or weeks before seeking medical care and attention after an accident, the value of your claim can go down because you waited. Therefore, it is always best to be treated right away following an injury from an accident.
How to Treat Whiplash
Treatment for whiplash injuries can include physical therapy, chiropractic care, prescription and over the counter medications, injections, radiofrequency denervations or ablations, facet blocks, nerve blocks, ice, heat, stretching, massage, etc. Our experience is that the quicker that you are treated for whiplash, the better off you will be and the chances of you having a permanent injury are decreased.
Along the same lines, if you are treating for whiplash it is important that you attend your medical appointments as scheduled. If you "no-show" or miss appointments this will not only increase your healing time but once again will make you look bad. If you do have to change an appointment, you should try to call the day before or at least a few hours before in order to reschedule. Another issue is what is called gaps in treatment. If you go to your doctor who prescribes physical therapy, but you don't start physical therapy to treat your whiplash for several weeks, then this can damage your case. The insurance adjuster, judge or eventually a jury may think if he/she was hurting so bad why did they take so long before starting therapy?
This same issue also applies to situations where your medical provider says I don't have anything else to offer you for your whiplash injury. If you are still having problems and issues at that time the doctor releases you, then you should seek additional medical care. This can be a referral to pain management, a psychiatrist, a chiropractor, more physical therapy, etc. However, keep in mind that there are some doctors who will not be able to treat your whiplash and may say there is "no objective" evidence of injury and will basically accuse you of faking your injury. This is why it is important to talk to a qualified personal injury attorney before just going to any doctor for your whiplash condition. An experienced injury attorney can help guide you away from some doctors (often time neurologists will have nothing to offer you, but may cause severe damage to your case) and towards other doctors who they have seen firsthand provide help to their clients. Often times your family doctor will not think of or know about specialists such as physiatrists (also known as physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors) whose job is to treat and deal with chronic pain sometimes caused by whiplash injuries. Even within specialists who treat whiplash injuries, there are some doctors who are more likely to say what the insurance company wants them to say instead of the truth about you and your injuries. It is critical not only to your treatment but to your case that you avoid insurance company doctors. We can help you with this in your Iowa injury matter.
Who Should I Contact After an Injury?
We offer Iowans who have sustained whiplash injuries a detailed book which covers injuries caused by car accidents, work injuries and other personal injury matters. Our book is available to you at no cost or obligation and reveals 8 Common Mistakes Made in Iowa personal injury cases. Our book not only tells you how you can avoid common mistakes but gives you advice when it comes to dealing with your medical providers, seeking medical care, etc. We will also tell you whether or not we think you need an attorney in your case. That is correct. You may not even need an attorney because in some cases frankly, the attorney will take a percentage of what you probably can get on your own. However, if your whiplash injury is serious and does not get better within a few weeks you should consider finding the best personal injury attorney for you and your case. Not all Iowa injury attorneys are the same and it can be difficult for you to distinguish between those with real experience and those who are just advertising that they are experienced. Our book covers what you should look for and how to find the best attorney for you and your personal injury case.
Who is at Fault in a Sideswipe Car Accident?
People have different names for what is commonly called a sideswipe car accident. Generally, a sideswipe means that two or more motor vehicles are traveling in the same direction and one vehicle strikes another one. Often the accidents occur when one vehicle enters the other vehicle's lane or both drivers attempt to merge into the same lane.
Often these collisions occur at highway speed on interstates with 2 or more lanes of travel. Sideswipe car accidents can be minor with property damage only or devastating if the impact is severe enough and/or one of the drivers loses control of their vehicle. Losing control of a vehicle at highway speed is a very scary situation. The vehicle can go into the ditch and may even roll. Roll-over car crashes cause more deaths and serious injuries than almost any other type of wreck. Wearing your seat-belt is very important if you are involved in a roll-over because without it your head may strike the roof causing a devastating spinal cord injury or you may be ejected from the vehicle.
How can sideswipe car accidents be prevented?
1. We have probably all started to merge into the next lane and suddenly realized that there was another vehicle in the lane. One of the best ways to prevent a sideswipe is to check your mirrors and also look over your shoulder to check your blind spot.
2. If you are driving faster than other vehicles it is always a good idea to pass them in the left-hand fast lane. In many states, it is actually illegal to pass on the right because of the safety concerns it creates. Therefore, if you pull up behind a slower moving vehicle give them a little time to hopefully see you behind them and pull over into the right hand slower lane. Passing a vehicle on the right can be unexpected and result in a serious collision. Here in Iowa, our rules of the road in Iowa Code Section 321.299 and the uniform jury instruction states:
600.14 Overtaking A Vehicle. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle going in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance, and shall not drive to the right side of the road until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. A violation of this law is negligence.
That is right, you could be found at fault for passing another vehicle on the right even if they sideswipe you. There is an exception to the above law for multi-lane highways such as Interstate 80, but it is still a good idea to always try to pass on the left first.
3. Many newer cars and trucks have lane change warning systems. They use radar systems to detect vehicles that are in your path on either side of you. Most systems give you a warning light on your mirror so you know there is a vehicle next to you. Some vehicles provide you with an audible warning sounds if you turn on your turn signal and move towards the vehicle. This technology has prevented hundreds if not thousands of serious car accident from happening and has probably also saved many lives.
Who is at fault in a sideswipe car accident? This is a tricky question that usually will involve eye witness testimony from drivers behind the collision to describe what they saw and heard. Further, under Iowa law, we have what is called comparative fault which basically means the judge or jury will determine the percentage of fault for each driver involved. In order to recover any damages, you have to prove the other driver was at least 50% at fault. Failing to prove this will result in you receiving no compensation. Likewise, if you are found to be 20% at fault then the amount of damages you are able to recover are reduced by your percentage of fault which in this example would be 20%. So if your damages were found to be $10,000, then it would only be ordered that you are owed $8,000.
Iowa Code Section 321.306 and the uniform jury instruction state the following:
600.23 Roads Laned For Traffic. Whenever any road has been divided into three or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules in addition to all other consistent rules shall apply:
1. A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as possible entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has seen that the movement can be made with safety.
2. On a road which is divided into three lanes, a vehicle shall be driven in the center lane only when overtaking and passing another vehicle where the road is clearly visible and the center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance, or in preparation for a left turn, or where the center lane is assigned exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle is going and is signed accordingly.
3. Official signs may be posted directing slow-moving traffic to use a designated lane, or assigning specific lanes to traffic moving in the same direction. Drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of the sign.
A violation of this law is negligence.
So basically a driver shall not drive his/her vehicle into another lane until it is safe to do so. The determination of who was at fault, and what percentage of fault they are, will come back to the testimony of the car drivers and the witnesses who saw the crash. If you or a loved one have been in a sideswipe car accident causing injuries then it is important that you have someone on your side looking out for your best interests. Some people think that their own insurance company will help prove that the other driver is at fault. While your insurance company may make their own determination of fault, they will only pursue the money that they have paid on your own automobile insurance policy. They will not pursue your medical bills, lost wages, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering or other damages you have sustained.
We offer Iowans injured in a car accident a no-cost Car Accident Evaluation at 641-792-3595. We will even give you our opinion if you even need an attorney or not and if the case is worth pursuing or not. If you prefer not to talk to a car accident attorney now, but want to learn about your rights first then request our book at www.IowaCarCrash.com. Our book gives you tips about how to find the best Iowa car accident and personal injury attorney for your case, exposes 7 Secretes to Not Wreck Your Iowa Car Accident case and much more.
How Are My Lost Wages Paid After a Car Accident?
Under Iowa law, if you or a loved one are involved in a car accident causing injuries that require you to be off work, then you will need to use your sick pay, short-term disability, accident and sickness, vacation time, AFLAC or some other form of disability pay. The insurance company for the other driver will not pay your lost wages as you incur them. They will only pay your lost wages as part of a total settlement of your case including medical bills, lost wages, loss of quality of life, pain, and suffering, etc. If you are still off work because of a car accident, it is way too early to be talking settlement with the insurance company. You need to wait and see how your medical treatment goes and if you make a full recovery or not before even considering a settlement offer.
It is important that you if you do not know if your employer has any such coverage that you contact the HR (human resources) department. If you do have short-term disability or another coverage that will provide you with benefits while you are not able to work, then you will be required to complete paperwork and your doctor will also have to fill out paperwork showing your disability. It is important that you complete this paperwork in a timely fashion because the longer you wait, the longer it will take before you start receiving checks for your time off work.
Also, you may have disability coverage on your mortgage, car or other loans. This can make your payments while you are disabled and not able to work. You should check with your bank or lender to find out if you purchased this type of coverage.
What if the above doesn't work?
If you, unfortunately, do not have any of the above available to you, then you may have to look for help from your family, friends, church, etc. If you were injured in a state that has PIP (personal injury protection) such as Minnesota then you may be able to recover your lost wages immediately under your own car insurance policy for no-fault insurance. For more information about Iowa car accidents, you should request of book that reveals 7 Secrets to Not Wreck Your Claim.
Who Should Pay my Medical Bills after my Car Accident in Iowa?
This is one of the most common questions we get and there is a lot of misinformation out there so listen up. First of all, the insurance adjuster for the other driver may tell you "send me all your medical bills". Yet, that does not mean they will actually pay your medical bills as you send them. You can try asking the insurance adjuster for something in writing that they will pay your medical bills. Although, chances are that the only way they will pay anything is if you agree to sign a release and close your claim forever. The insurance company would rather have your medical bills pile-up, have you sent to collection, have you start receiving nasty collection calls making threats against you such as garnishing your wages, etc.
Why would the insurance company want to do this? Because it puts pressure on you to settle your case for less than fair value. They want you to be so stressed out that you will take whatever they want to pay you so the medical bills will be paid and the collections calls will end. Well, there is some good news, you should not play by the rules set by the insurance company and instead should know the truth.
The truth is that rarely will the other driver's insurance company pay for your medical bills as they are incurred. So, the best source to pay your car accident related medical bills are:
1. Your health insurance that you have through your employer or that you obtained on your own.
You should make sure that the hospital and other medical providers have the information they need to submit the bills to your health insurance. They may say "we cannot do this because there is a third party responsible". This is hogwash. If you have health insurance then they are required to pay your medical bills regardless if it is a car accident or not;
2. Your medical payments under your own automobile insurance policy.
If there is insurance on the vehicle you were in at the time of the crash and/or if you have car insurance on your own, then chances are good that there is some medical payments coverage available. The amount can vary from $1,000 up to $100,000 in medical payments coverage. It is usually best to use your medical payments coverage to cover your co-pays and deductibles. But why should my insurance pay for this and won't this increase my insurance premiums? Well, this is coverage that you bought to protect yourself and if you are not at fault for the accident then it should not affect your insurance premiums. As stated above, the other driver's insurance is highly unlikely to pay for any of your medical bills, unless you sign a release letting them off the hook forever;
3. If You Don't Have Health Insurance
If you don't have health insurance and don't have any or enough medical payments coverage then you could contact the medical provider to see if they are willing to write-off all or part of the balance given your financial situation. Many hospitals are not-for-profit which requires them to write-off a portion of their medical bills each year to maintain the benefits they receive for being non-profit; and
4. None of the Above Work
Then you could seek assistance from a local church, charity, family or friends. Chances are if you are in this situation then your medical bills may be one of your last concerns as you are probably having problems paying for your other bills.
There are other potential ways of paying your medical bills that a qualified Iowa personal injury attorney may be able to help you with. If you would like more information about medical bills in car accident cases here in Iowa then request a copy of our book that we offer at no cost or risk to you. Our book also reveals 7 Secrets to Not Wreck Your Claim.
If you need immediate assistance or have more questions feel free to call our office at 641-792-3595 and ask to speak with one of our car accident attorneys.
What If the At Fault Driver is Lying About My Car Accident in Iowa?
We live in a world where some people would rather avoid responsibility for their actions by lying. If you are on the scene of a car accident in Iowa and someone is lying, you should be sure to get names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses who can tell the truth about what happened. Also, make sure good pictures are taken of the scene, location of the vehicles, skid marks, etc. If you are not able to do either of these because of your injuries, then call a family member or friend who can do this for you.
If you find out later on that the other at fault driver is lying about what happened you can:
1. Preferably before the accident or police report is finished and filed, talk to the police officer investigating the crash to make sure the truth is known;
2. If you have witness names and information provide it to the police officer so they can contact the independent parties to find out what really happened; and
3. Consider hiring a private investigator and/or a qualified injury attorney to try to obtain a recorded statement from the other driver. If they are lying, then chances are they will not be able to keep their lies straight and credibility is a big factor in Iowa personal injury cases.
If none of the above works and the police officer ends up finding you at fault and gives you a traffic ticket then consider the following:
1. Do not just mail the ticket in and pay the fine because this could be considered an admission of fault by pleading guilty;
2. If you are required to appear in court for your ticket, then appear and either pled not guilty and then a trial date will be set for your ticket. However, if you do not want to fight the ticket in court you could ask to be found guilty instead of pleading guilty which may not be considered an admission of fault; and
3. Hiring a criminal defense attorney to fight the traffic ticket in court. However, keep in mind that criminal defense attorneys will sometimes say they will do your personal injury car crash case also. No one can do everything well so be careful about hiring a criminal defense attorney for your car accident claim.
This is a condensed short list of some things to consider when the other driver is lying about what happened. For more information about Iowa Car Accidents Cases request a copy of our book that we offer at no cost or risk to you. If you would like to discuss your injury matter right away with one of our injury attorneys then call now 641-792-3595 for a no cost car accident evaluation.
I don’t like the workers’ compensation doctor or other medical provider. Can I choose a different one?
You always have the right to choose medical care on your own, but if you want the workers' compensation insurance company to pay for it, then you will generally need to see the medical providers that they choose. However, there is a process called alternative medical care which is discussed in detail in Chapter 4 of our book in which you may be able to obtain a different medical provider under certain circumstances. There are very specific requirements in attempting to change medical care so you should consult with an attorney should you decide this is what you want to do.
To learn more including the 7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid if You are Hurt at Work order a copy of my FREE Book entitled “Iowa Workers’ Compensation- An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries”. Why offer a Free Book? I have represented hundreds of Iowans hurt at work and have seen too many clients make mistakes before they had the “right” information resulting in them losing thousands of dollars. Iowans hurt at work are now beginning to realize that they should learn about Iowa's work injury laws. Finally, you can learn about work injuries in the comfort of your own home with no risk or obligation. So to learn how to avoid costly mistakes and your rights Call Now (800)-707-2552, ext. 511 (24 Hour Message) or click the link to request your copy. For immediate assistance or to schedule your NO COST Work Injury Case Evaluation, CALL 641-792-3595 and ask for Corey or Erik.
The doctor they sent me to wants me to have surgery, but the insurance company has not approved it. What can I do?
Unfortunately, it is common for insurance companies to ignore the treatment recommendations made by the doctors they choose. There is a procedure called "alternative medical care" which can be used to seek an order requiring the insurance company to pay for the recommended treatment. The first thing you are required to do is to send a letter to the insurance adjustor requesting that the care be approved. You should keep a copy of the letter as you have to prove you requested the care in writing.
This and other specific legal requirements regarding alternative medical care are explained in Chapter 4 of our Iowa work comp. book available at no cost to you.
I am a truck driver who lives in another state, but was hired by an Iowa trucking company. Where should I file my workers’ compensation claim?
Generally, if your employer has a written employment manual or policy stating that your claim will be handled under Iowa law, then Iowa should have jurisdiction over your claim. However, there are lots of variables in determining the appropriate jurisdiction. Keep in mind that time limitations can be quite short so you should promptly contact an Iowa attorney to discuss the proper state to file your claim in.
If you have questions about where to file your claim or would like a no cost workmans' comp case review, contact our office at 641-792-3595 and ask for Corey or Erik.
Can you ask your employer to do a different or another job if your doctor says you are unable to do your current job?
Yes, you can always ask, but keep in mind that in most circumstances your employer is under no obligation to either provide you with work within your restrictions (however, if they don't have work for you then you should receive a weekly workers compensation check) or provide you with work that you feel is more suitable. In most situations, you are an employee at will and if you reject work that is offered to you within your restrictions then you may be fired and also receive no weekly workers compensation benefits.