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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I Was Fired Because I Spoke Out About Lack of Protection (PPE) and Got Sick Do I Have a Case?
Iowa is an employee at-will state like most states. There are some protections under employment laws like the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), violation of public policy, retaliatory discharge, collective bargaining agreements with unions, etc. However, the general rule is that your employer can fire you for any or no reason at all.
However, you may have an employment law claim and if you can prove you were exposed to the Coronavirus- Covid 19 at work and became sick because of it then you may also have a valid worker's compensation claim.
How Do I Prove I Was Exposed to Coronavirus- Covid 19 at Work?
First of all, if you suspect that you have been exposed you should immediately notify your employer and fill out an injury report. If they do not have a written or online injury report for you to complete, then you should send them a detailed letter stating that you were exposed at work, the symptoms you are having and request medical care. Regardless, of how you notify your employer please keep copies of any and all documents reporting your injury. Injury reports sometimes seem to get lost by employers later on when they claim they were not notified of the injury. Iowa law provides up to 90 days from when you knew or should have known that a condition was work-related, but it is the best practice to report it in writing right away.
What Happens After I Report My Coronavirus- Covid 19 Work Injury?
They should promptly provide you with medical care, but it is common for your employer and/or their insurance company to investigate your claim before agreeing to pay you benefits or even send you to a doctor. If you need medical care during their investigation period then, by all means, use your health insurance and get help. If you have a serious illness, then waiting for medical care is the last thing that you want to do. If later on, the insurance company admits that your condition is work-related or a judge orders them to provide care and compensation, then who paid for your medical bills and reimbursement can be taken care of.
Can I Sue My Employer for Not Providing Me with PPE (personal protective equipment)?
Under Iowa law you cannot sue your employer for negligence. However, there is a very limited claim for what is called gross negligence in which you have to prove that it was more likely than not that the actions or inactions of a co-employee would lead to your injuries. This is a very high standard and you have to sue your co-employee who oftentimes would be your supervisor, the safety supervisor, etc.
To learn more about Iowa work injuries and how you may be compensated for a work-related Coronavirus- Covid 19 injury, request a copy of our new book, Iowa Workers' Compensation- An Insider's Guide to Work Injuries Click Here. We offer our book to you at no cost or risk because we have seen far too many hard-working Iowans make costly mistakes causing them to lose thousands of dollars and sometimes their entire case. If you need immediate assistance or have questions then please feel free to call us at 641-792-3595 or Contact Us Here. We will take the time to listen to your story, give you advice and tell you if we think you need a lawyer or not. That's right, there are some work injury cases where it does not make sense to hire a lawyer.
Can My Employer Make Me Come In If I Have Coronavirus Symptoms?
Under Iowa law, you are an employee at will and you are not required to come into work if you do not want to. However, if you decide not to come to work then your job may be in jeopardy. However, if you qualify under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) then your job should be protected, but you will need to ask for the FMLA and make sure to have the proper paperwork completed in order to be protected.
Is My Employer Required to Comply with the FMLA?
First of all, you have to determine if your employer is subject to the FMLA. If your employer is engaged in commerce or any industry or activity affecting commerce and has 50 or more employees each working day during at least 20 calendar weeks or more in the current or preceding calendar year then the FMLA applies to them.
Am I Covered Under the FMLA?
In order to be eligible as an employee you must meet the following requirements:
- have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave, and
- have worked for that employer for at least 12 months, and
- work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed at the location or within 75 miles of the location.
What Does the FMLA Provide?
First of all, the FMLA does not provide you with any weekly benefits. Those could be paid under sick leave, STD (short term disability), workers' compensation or other disability plans. If you qualify for FMLA leave, then you are entitled up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if you meet one or more of the following requirements:
(a) You have a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform the functions of the position of your job.
(b) You are required to provide care for your spouse, your child or your parent, if such spouse, child or parent has a serious health condition.
(c) Because of the birth of your child in order to provide care for your child.
(d) Because of the placement of a child placed with you for adoption or foster care.
What is Considered a Serious Health Condition?
A serious health condition is defined as:
An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:
(A) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or
(B) continuing treatment by a health care provider.
The term "health care provider" means:
(A) a doctor of medicine or osteopathy who is authorized to practice medicine or surgery (as appropriate) by the State in which the doctor practices; or
(B) any other person determined by the Secretary to be capable of providing health care services.
If you have all these items are met then the employee may be entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work without being terminated. However, your employer may offer sick pay, STD (short term disability) benefits or other benefits that allow you to be paid during part of or all of the 12 week period. If the employer does not provide the 12 weeks as required, then you may have a cause of action against the employer. This is not designed to be an all-inclusive list of the steps which must be taken under the FMLA, in fact, there may be other requirements that must be met. Therefore, each particular case should be analyzed under the FMLA and an attorney consulted regarding what to do.
For more information about Iowa Employment laws including the FMLA, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Iowa Workers' Compensation, request a copy of our Iowa Work Injury Book in which we devote an entire chapter to Your Rights as an Employee Click Here. We offer our book at no risk or cost to fellow Iowans because we have seen far too many Iowans make a costly mistake because they did not have the information they needed.
You can always call us at 641-792-3595 or Contact Us Here
What Happens to My Case If The Courts Are Closed?
If you have a Civil Jury Trial? On April 2, 2020, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order stating that all civil jury trials set before August 3, 2020 will need to be continued.
If you have a Workers' Compensation Trial/Hearing? Presently, the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner has ordered that all cases set for trial/hearing before June 16, 2020 shall be done through CourtCall which is a system similar to Zoom. It allows all parties, their attorneys, the judge/deputy, the court reporter and witnesses to all appear on their computers. Since the order came down, we have had a hearing through CourtCall and found that is worked pretty well. The alternative is that one or both parties can file a motion to continue the hearing in order to have an in person hearing by the end of the year which may or may not be granted.
There are other rules for FED's forcible entry and detainers, bench trials, etc. that you can find at https://www.iowacourts.gov/newsroom/news-releases/.
How our firm can help you during the Covid-19 epidemic
*NOTICE - EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY*
Walker, Billingsley & Bair takes the safety of our clients and staff very seriously. Given the recent developments with the COVID-19 health crisis and directives from our state and national governments we are implementing the following policies:
1) All appointments will be conducted by phone. For tax appointments, clients should drop off their 2019 tax documents ahead of their scheduled appointment. We will call at the scheduled time. If you do not want to have a phone appointment and would prefer to just drop off your documents, you may do that, and the tax return will be prepared as soon as possible.
2) Signing of wills and other estate planning documents will be rescheduled after April 13.
3) Our Newton office has a drop slot at the front of the building to drop paperwork off. If the documents will not fit through the drop slot, please call the office and we will make arrangements to have someone meet you at the door to accept the documents. In our other offices, please contact the office prior to coming or when you are outside so that someone will be available to accept the paperwork.
4) Our lobby doors will be locked during business hours, but our staff and Attorneys will still be working and available to speak with you by phone or email.
We are still here to help you with all your needs and still offering no-cost consultation for injury cases. Just call us at 641-792-3595 or contact us here
We appreciate everyone's patience during this time.
What If I Get Coronavirus (Covid 19) From My Job?
Under the current law in Iowa you have to prove that your injury, whether it is Coronavirus Covid 19, a back injury, etc. arose out of and in the course of your employment. One would think that your employer and their workers' compensation insurance company would want to help you as you likely are putting your life and livelihood on the line to do your job. However, most of the time your employer and/or their workers' compensation insurance company will look for a way to deny your claim with one or more of the following excuses:
1. How do we know you were infected at work?
2. You have probably been around someone else with the virus?
3. We don't have to pay for Coronavirus (Covid 19) cases because it is a pandemic.
It is your burden of proof as an injured worker to prove that you contracted the virus at work so how can you do this?
1. If your occupation (nurse, doctor, ambulance personnel, orderly, etc.) causes you to be exposed to patients then you should document the date, time, location, name of patient(s) (later on you can use initials if necessary for HIPPA) with Coronavirus and how you may have been exposed;
2. If you have symptoms report them immediately to your employer, tell your employer why you think it is work related and request medical care. If they don't have you fill out an injury report, then prepare a statement yourself and keep a copy of it for your records. Often, if you only give a verbal statement your employer will deny that you notified them and deny, defend and delay your claim;
3. Insist on getting tested to determine if what you have is really Coronavirus or just the flu. If you do not have a test confirming it then later on the insurance company will likely try to blame it on anything and everything that they can in order to not have to pay you benefits.
While a traumatic exposure to Coronavirus should be enough to prove you sustained a work injury, your employer may treat the condition as an occupational disease which can make it more difficult for you to make a recovery. For an occupational disease you have to prove:
1. You developed a disease that arises out of and in the course of employment and have a direct casual connection with the employment and followed as a natural incident thereto from injuries exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment;
2. You developed a disease which follows from a hazard to which an employee has or would have been equally exposed outside of the occupation is not compensable as an occupational disease.
An occupational diseased claim has other legal requirements which make it very important to promptly report your work related Coronavirus (Covid 19) in writing to your employer. For more information about Iowa workers compensation claims request a copy of our Iowa Workers' Compensation Book where we explain the work injury process in more detail and also devote an entire chapter to Your Rights as an Employee, FMLA, ADA, etc Click Here. We offer our book at no cost or risk to you because we have seen far too many hard working Iowans make a costly mistake because they did not have the information they needed. If you have any questions contact us here or call 641-792-3595
What Compensation Could I Receive For A Back Injury At Work?
There are dozens of factors that will determine how much a back injury is worth. Generally, if you have a permanent work-related back injury you will be paid a percentage of 500 weeks of benefits unless you are considered permanently and totally disabled which is a lifetime of benefits.
Some of the important factors in assessing what is known as your industrial disability include the following:
-Did you sustain a permanent injury? If yes, what is your functional impairment rating? (Note: there if you do not know the difference between a functional impairment rating and industrial disability you should read on and also request a copy of our Iowa workers' compensation book that we offer at no cost or risk)
-Did you require surgery and if so, what type (fusion, laminectomy, diskectomy) and how many?
-How long were you off work following your work injury?
-Do you now have permanent work restrictions?
-Do you now have to use an assistive device like a cane or brace?
-What are your current symptoms and how do they affect your ability to earn a living?
-What, if any, ongoing or additional medical care is expected in the future?
-Have you returned to your regular job making the same amount or more money?
-Have you been terminated because your employer does not have work available within your restrictions?
-If you were terminated, have you done a full and complete job search such that you will be considered a motivated worker or not?
-If you were terminated, have you found another job and if so how much does it pay, what are your job requirements, etc.
-How far did you go in school?
-Do you have learning disabilities or other problems with learning?
-Do you speak and read English?
-What, if any, other health conditions do you have that affect your employability?
When considering settlement of your case, we look at the above factors along with other items to provide an estimate of the percentage of industrial disability that we think a workers' compensation judge will do with the case later on. If the case does not settle, then eventually a workers' compensation judge will look at these factors in determining what he/she thinks your industrial disability is caused by the work injury at issue.
Let's say, for example, it is determined that you have sustained a 30% industrial disability. This means that you are owed 150 weeks of PPD (permanent partial disability) because 30% * 500 weeks = 150 weeks. Keep in mind that these benefits are paid weekly unless you agree to give up your medical and close your file which is rarely a good idea to try to do on your own for a number of reasons including the social security offset alone could costs you thousands of dollars, Medicare, etc. These PPD benefits are paid in addition to the TTD (temporary total disability) benefits that you probably received while you were off work healing from your injuries.
Once we know how many weeks you are owed for your permanent disability, then we will need to make sure that the weekly amount they are paying you, called your weekly rate is accurate.
When looking at your rate we look at:
-What was your average weekly wage in the 13 weeks prior to the work injury? This includes your total number of hours worked each week times your regular hourly wages, plus regular bonuses, tips, etc.
-Are you married or single?
-How many dependents do you claim on your tax returns besides yourself?
-Are you age 65 or older and get to claim an additional dependent?
Your weekly rate is very important because if you are owed 150 weeks of benefits and your weekly rate is $200 compared to $1,000 the value of your case could be very different. If you are owed 150 weeks at $200 the total is $30,000 whereas if you are owed 150 weeks at $1,000 the total is $150,000 or five times as much.
Note: Approximately 80-90% of cases like the ones described in this article will end up settling before trial for a lump-sum sometimes with the medical and case open or other times with the medical and case closed.
Below are 3 examples of what cases may be worth under these very specific facts. Keep in mind that every case is different and there are 12 different judges all of which may evaluate your case very differently. Further, there is an appeals process where the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner can change, modify or eliminate the decision of the judge who hears the evidence. If you would like to discuss the facts in your specific case (if you are not already represented by an attorney) and how much your workers' comp back injury may be worth just give us a call at 641-792-3595 for a no-cost, no-risk work injury evaluation.
A 61-year-old factory worker with a high school education worked for the same company for 30 years. While lifting at work he sustains a serious back injury causing discs in his back and L4-L5 at L5-S1 to herniated putting pressure on his spinal cord. Because of this, he requires an immediate fusion surgery with the placement or hardware (screws and rods to stabilize the area). He completes 6 months of physical therapy and his doctor recommends an FCE (functional capacity evaluation) in order to determine his permanent work restrictions. His test is found to be valid placing him in the light work category with permanent work restriction of no lifting of more than 20 pounds. He is given a 20% functional impairment rating by his doctor. He contacts his employer with his restrictions and is told that they do not have work for him within his restrictions and he is terminated. Presuming that he attempts to find other work within his restrictions and is found to be a motivated worker, the case is probably worth a range between 50% and permanent total disability. If his workers' compensation rate is $750 per week then this would mean either a weekly check for 250 weeks * $750 per week or a weekly check of $750 per week for the rest of his life.
A 34-year-old truck driver with a GED falls on the ice at work resulting in a low back strain. An MRI shows that he has a herniated disc, but he does not require surgery. He has many months of physical therapy, 2 epidural injections and missed a total of 10 months of work after his work injury-related fall. He is released to return to work with a 50-pound weight restriction and because his job requires him to be able to lift up to 100 pounds they terminate his employment. He is given a 5% functional impairment rating. He looks for other work and finds a "no-touch" freight truck driving job that he is able to do, but it pays about 20% less than his prior job. The case is probably worth a range between 20% and 40% disability. If his workers' compensation rate is $800 per week then this would mean either a weekly check for 100 to 200 weeks * $800 per week with open medical benefits.
A 52 year old production supervisor with a 4-year college education falls into an uncovered pit at work after July 1, 2017. He has had back problems for many years, but the fall aggravated his prior bulging discs such that he required a laminectomy surgery. He has 4 months of physical therapy and makes a good recovery. He is able to go back to his normal job without restrictions. The company doctor gives him a 0% functional impairment rating. He hires an attorney who sets him up for a 2nd opinion with an IME doctor. The IME doctor determines that he has a 15% impairment rating because of herniated disc with surgery and residual symptoms. The case is probably worth a range between 0% and 15% disability because he is making the same or more money than he did prior to his work injury and his injury occurred after July 1, 2017, when Governor Branstad lead the Republican charge to reduce compensation to injured workers. If his workers' compensation rate is $1,200 per week then this would mean perhaps up to 75 weeks of benefits at $1,200 per week.
If you have any questions regarding any work injuries including back injuries you can give us a call at call at 641-792-3595 or contact us here for a no-cost, no-risk work injury evaluation.
What If I Get Fired While on Workers Comp?
This is a question that we hear often and frankly, it is a very scary part of a work injury case here in Iowa. If you get fired while on workers' comp one question will be why did you get fired? If you were fired because you did not show up to work and did not have a doctor's excuse, then this is bad for your workers' comp case. If you got fired because you had permanent work restrictions that your employer was not willing or able to accommodate, then this can be good for a case and you may have other remedies discussed below.
Please note that your employer can fire you while you are receiving workers comp. I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but you are an employee at will under Iowa law so you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.
But there may be some protection for you under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or a collective bargaining agreement that you may have through your union. However, these laws do not change the fact that you can be fired, they may just allow you, later on, to get your job back along with potentially additional damages.
Now let's discuss in more depth the reason for you being fired.
Terminated because of work injury
There are many different points in time when an employer fires an injured worker. Sometimes, a worker will be fired immediately after the injury for say a safety violation. Other times, an injured worker is fired while they are off work healing from their injuries and have used up their 12 weeks of FMLA time. A common time for an injured worker to be fired is once they have reached MMI (maximum medical improvement) and have been given permanent work restrictions. You should provide your employer with your permanent work restrictions and ask for work. You need to be ready, willing and able to do the work within your restrictions. While you may not yet know if you are able for sure to do the work, you must at least go and try to do the job. One of the worst things you can do for your workers' compensation case is to refuse to do work that is offered to you. This is a very complicated area of the law where there are many traps that have been set for injured workers. In 2017 then Governor Branstad and the Republican party voted to significantly reduce compensation to injured workers in a number of ways including if an offer of employment is made to the worker. Employers know the law and will try to catch you in one of the new traps. If you try to navigate this area of the law on your own, it is very possible that you are throwing away thousands of dollars. We are happy to discuss your workers' comp claim, your employment, your termination, etc. at no cost or risk. If you are faced with being fired, you definitely should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Also, it is possible that you will want to file for unemployment, but there is a right way and wrong way to do this as well discussed in more detail below.
Terminated for some other reason
There are dozens of other reasons that an employer may fire an injured worker. Keep in mind that your employer will always be looking for a way to fire you that is not related to your work injury in an attempt to reduce the compensation that you receive. For example, often employers claim that injured workers did not do their job properly, were late, missed work due to personal matters, committed employment misconduct, etc. Just because your employer claims you were fired for something other than the work injury does not mean that it is true. If your employer fires you, then you will likely want to consider filing for unemployment, but this is a big topic by itself.
Filing for unemployment
It would literally take hours to explain the entire unemployment system and how it works, but here are some general guidelines:
1. Ready, willing and able to work
This is a basic requirement before you even consider filing. Keep in mind that you do not have to certify that you can return to your old job, but rather that there is work available in the open labor market that you can do. For example, let's say you work in a factory and you cannot return to your factory job, but you could return to a light-duty desk job that your employer had you doing for a period of time. Also, maybe there is work in the past you have done that you can do or you could work at a local grocery or convenience store running a cash register, stocking shelves, etc. Before you have any type of phone interview, you should write down some of the jobs you think you could do.
2. Work credits
You have to have enough quarterly work credits in order to qualify. Keep in mind that if you were off work for 3 or more quarters because of your work-related injury, then Iowa Workforce is supposed to skip those quarters and look at the time prior to your work injury. However, rarely do they get this right. Usually, they will send out a notice that you do not qualify because you do not have enough credits. If this happens you need to timely provide Iowa Workforce with the correct information. You can try to do this on your own, but they are looking for very specific things such as your first report of injury, a letter from the insurance company stating TTD and PPD paid, medical records showing your date of MMI, etc.
Under Iowa law, you are not allowed to receive both TTD (temporary total disability) benefits and unemployment at the same time. If you file for unemployment too early in your case, then you are wasting the benefits that you otherwise may have received. However, if your workers’ comp claim has been denied and the employer is not offering you work, then it may make sense to go ahead and file.
How is fault determined in a Car Accident?
Generally, under Iowa law, we look at what is called fault or also known as negligence. Iowa has what is called comparative fault which means the fault of the parties involved in the accident are compared against each other. For example, if someone strikes you from behind while you are waiting at a red light, waiting for traffic, etc., then chances are that the other driver is 100% at fault. However, if you are driving down the road and another driver pulls out in front of you while you are speeding and/or looking at your cell phone, then you may be found 10%, 20% or more at fault for the car accident. The percentage of fault reduces your compensation by the percentage. So if your damages are $100 and you are found to be 20% at fault, then you will only receive 80% or in this case $80 of your $100 in damages.
The determination of fault is based upon what are called the Rules of the Road. In Iowa, these rules based upon the laws passed over the years by our legislature. These Rules of the Road include speed limits, duty to yield, following traffic devices, the requirement to wear a seatbelt, etc. We will discuss some very specific and common causes of Iowa car accidents and how fault is determined.
There is a rule of the road that requires you to maintain control of your vehicle in order to not strike other vehicles on the roads. If you are legally stopped waiting for a traffic light, stopped at a stop sign or otherwise following the law when you are struck from behind there is a good chance that the other driver will be found 100% at fault.
Failure to Obey Stop Signs or Traffic Lights
In our busy world where everyone seems to be in a rush at all times, people try to push the limits by running red lights and ignoring stop signs. Also, sometimes people are just not paying attention to the fact that they have an upcoming red light or stop sign. If the other party causes the car accident by failing to obey a traffic device then there is a good chance that they will be considered 100% at fault.
Failure to Yield in a Roadway
This is another common violation of the rules of the road. This most commonly happens when someone pulls directly into the path of a vehicle driving down the road. There will be a number of factors in determining fault including the presence of a stop sign, traffic light, or other signage; the speed of the vehicles; road conditions; use of electronic devices by the parties, etc.
Failure to Yield at Uncontrolled Intersection
The general rule is that you have to yield to the driver to your right. So, if you end up being struck by another vehicle in an uncontrolled intersection where the driver came from will be very important.
Failure to Use a Seatbelt
On March 25, 2018, Governor Reynolds signed a Republican-backed law which now reduces compensation to injured Iowans for not wearing a seatbelt when required. You can now be assessed up to 25% fault for not wearing a seatbelt even if the other is drunk and clearly at fault. Whether you agree that people who are seriously injured through no fault of their own should have their damages reduced by up to 25% or not, the best advice is to always wear your seatbelt.
Hit as a Pedestrian in Crosswalk
There are very specific legal requirements when it comes to the rights and duties of pedestrians. Generally, if you are a pedestrian who is struck in a crosswalk which is defined as either "Any portion of a road distinctly marked for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface; or the portion of the road connecting the sidewalks on either side of the intersection." While as a pedestrian you may rely upon the approaching driver's duty to yield, you still must exercise ordinary care including whenever possible walking on the right half of the crosswalk.
Hit as a Pedestrian in Other areas
If a pedestrian is crossing a road in an area other than what is defined as a crosswalk then the pedestrian has the duty to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the road. Further, if there is a marked crosswalk where the pedestrian is crossing the road they are required to walk within it. Also, if a pedestrian is walking along the side of a roadway, they are required to walk on or along the left side of the roadway as a violation of this law is negligence.
As a general rule, the rights and duties of bicycles are the same as other motor vehicles. There are unique features of crashes involving cars and bicycles. Often these occur when a car is trying to pass a bicycle and either does not see the bicycle or drives to close to the rider. One of the laws for nighttime riding is the requirement to have a white light on the front of the bicycle visible at least 300 feet and a red light on the rear of the bicycle visible at least 300 feet.
Similar to other motor vehicles and bicycles, motorcycles are required to follow the same rules of the road as others. There are unique factors involved in motorcycle accident cases which we have dealt with for more than 20 years. These can include the experience of the rider, the maneuverability of the specific motorcycle, if the rider properly applied the brakes in order to avoid the crash, possible fault assigned to the rider for not wearing a helmet, etc.
There are literally hundreds of different ways that vehicle accidents occur in Iowa each and every year. If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident in Iowa, then feel free to give us a call so we can discuss how we may be able to help you. There is no cost, risk or obligation, just call 641-792-3595.If you are not ready to call an attorney or would just like additional information about Iowa car accidents, then you should request a copy of our new car accident book called “The Legal Insider’s Guide to Iowa Car Accidents- 7 Secrets to Not Wreck Your Case." To order your copy go to http://www.IowaCarAccidentBook.com or Call Now 1-800-707-2552 (ext. 710) (24 Hour Recorded Message). We offer our Iowa car accident book at no cost because we have seen too many hard-working Iowans hurt in car accidents who made mistakes which cost them thousands of dollars. Iowans hurt in car accidents are beginning to realize that the insurance company for the other driver is not there to help them and that they should learn about Iowa's car accident laws. Finally, there is a book about car accidents in Iowa that you can review in the comfort of your own home with no pressure. For immediate assistance call 641-792-3595.
What Does it Mean When Workman Comp Closed My Case?
This is a question we hear all the time because the insurance adjuster will tell injured workers "I am closing your case".
These words from an insurance adjustor really mean nothing at all, but they hope that you will believe them and not going any further with your claim. The reality is that in Iowa if you are hurt at work then you have lifetime medical benefits for the work injury. That sounds great but is really not as great as it sounds because often they will end up denying medical care blaming your condition on arthritis, etc. However, this still does not mean you should just believe what the insurance adjuster is telling you.
Are You Owed More Money?
For example, you may be owed significantly more money than what they have paid you for PPD (permanent partial disability) despite the fact that they have told you your case is closed. Also, if you have been paid workers' compensation benefits then you have up to 3 years from the date of last payment to bring a petition for benefits. The fact that they told you your case is closed it not what Iowa law provides for.
The best way to find out if what you have been paid is fair is by speaking with a qualified and experienced Iowa workman comp attorney. You can start with a phone conversation and if it appears that you may be owed additional benefits then a more detailed meeting and records review will usually occur next. There is no cost or obligation to speak with any of the workman comp attorneys at our office.
Questions To Ask If You Are Owed More Money
Some of the information we look at when determining if an injured worker is owed additional benefits or not are as follows:
1. When were they injured and when were they last paid a workman comp check?
2. What type of injuries did they sustain? (back, neck, hand, brain, foot, CRPS, etc.)
3. What, if any, permanent work restrictions have been imposed?
4. Did they have an FCE (functional capacity evaluation) test and what did it show?
5. Did they receive an impairment rating, who was the doctor that provided it and how much is it?
6. Have they returned back to their normal job making the same or more money?
7. Have they been terminated or asked to leave their job because of the work injury?
8. If they have sustained a scheduled member injury (hand, arm, leg, foot, eye, etc.) did they previously sustain another scheduled member injury to another body party and may qualify for additional compensation under the Iowa Second Injury Fund Act?
The above are just a few of the questions we ask in order to see if we can help an injured worker obtain additional workman comp benefits that they are owed, but not being paid because the insurance adjustor has closed their file.
What Can You Do Now?
During the course of your workman comp case, you should keep the letters that the insurance company sends to you and keep the medical records and reports that your medical providers generate and provide to you. However, don't worry if you don't have these documents as we can obtain them from the insurance company at no cost under Iowa law.
Can I be Fired While on Light Duty?
Under Iowa law, unless you have a written employment contract then you are most likely an employee at will. This means that you can be fired at any time for any reason or no reason at all. However, if you are a union member you can file a grievance in an attempt to try to get your job back. Also, if your employer violates an employment law such as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), etc. then you may be able to successfully get your job back by filing a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
There are short time limits to file these complaints, follow specific rules and then potentially file a lawsuit so you should definitely consult with an attorney who is qualified to discuss not only your workers' compensation case but also your potential employment law case. Our attorneys can discuss both of these aspects with you to see what may be done in addition to your workers' compensation claim. However, if you are already represented by a workers' compensation attorney then you should start by talking to your current attorney.
Tips For Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Do Not Leave Your Job Voluntarily
Please under almost no circumstances should you quit your job, resign and/or agree to leave your job while you have a workers' compensation claim pending. This can be devastating financially to you for a number of reasons including it will likely reduce the value of your workers' compensation case, you may not receive unemployment benefits, you will likely not receive weekly work comp checks, etc. If they want you to leave the job, make them fire you because this will help your claims in a number of ways.
Keep in mind that if you are fired while on light duty it may have a significant impact on your workers' compensation case. Hopefully, you are not fired for "cause" because if you are then chances are the insurance company will deny paying you TTD (temporary total disability) benefits while you are on restrictions prior to reaching MMI (maximum medical improvement).
It is common for the insurance company to initially deny these benefits until an Iowa attorney sends them the law about this and explains that they may be subject to penalty for failing to continue paying TTD. We have helped hundreds of injured workers get their TTD benefits started and also help them decide if, and when, they should file for unemployment.
What About Filing For Unemployment?
You should not immediately file for unemployment if your ongoing TTD request is not granted. This is because you may be wasting your unemployment as you are not allowed to receive both TTD and unemployment benefits at the same time. However, you can eventually receive unemployment and PPD (permanent partial disability) benefits if certain legal requirements are met. These requirements are very specific, and we have helped hundreds of injured workers eventually receive both unemployment and their PPD benefits at the same time. Although, if you try to do it on your own and it is not done properly then chances are, we are not going to be able to fix things after the fact.
On another note, even if Iowa Workforce says you do not qualify because you do not have enough work credits, don't assume they are correct. If you have missed 3 or more quarters while receiving TTD then we can help file an appeal so that the correct quarters are used prior to your work injury in an attempt to obtain your unemployment benefits. Keep in mind that your unemployment claim is very important to your workers' compensation case. If you have an attorney who says "we don't handle unemployment claims" this should raise a big red flag. Obtaining your unemployment not allowing gives you another source of income for up to 26 weeks, but also can increase the value of your workers' compensation case by tens of thousands of dollars. If we are helping you with your workers' compensation case, we do not charge you any fees while handling your unemployment claim. If we are successful in your workers' compensation case then you pay us a flat fee at the end of your workers' compensation case.So while you can be fired while on light duty, as you can see with the legal help you have several options that we can pursue in order to keep an income source for you, potentially getting your job back, and/or getting you additional workers’ compensation benefits. If you have questions about any of the above, please feel free to contact or call our office (641-792-3595) at no cost for your Iowa work injury evaluation. We will take the time to speak with you (usually by phone at first and then often later in person), answer your questions, explain how the process works.