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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Do workers compensation benefits cover PTSD?
The short answer is yes, if you sustain PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) following a physical work injury or traumatic event like a robbery at work then your condition should be covered. This sounds good but is not as good as it sounds because often your workers' comp insurance company will deny your PTSD claims for several reasons.
Here are a few company insurance company tactics in dealing with PTSD:
1. The insurance company, nurses, and their doctors will simply ignore the mental health issues which you are having including PTSD. You should bring up all of your problems you are having because of the work injury, but do not be surprised if the doctor says "I am only treating you for your (insert your injury, e.g. arm, shoulder, back, neck, leg, etc.). If this has happened to you, there are several ways that we can help you get the medical care and treatment that you need for your PTSD and may also be able to obtain additional financial compensation for you.
2. You complain about mental health problems such as PTSD so the insurance company decides to send you to one of their bought and paid for mental health providers. There are a number of psychiatrists and psychologists in Iowa that will say whatever the insurance company wants them to for a price. These doctors have a proven track record for helping the insurance company at all costs. If the insurance adjustor wants to send you to a doctor in order to address your PTSD claims, you should find out if the doctor they want to send you to is legitimate or not. Depending upon your circumstances, it may be better for you to just seek treatment on your own instead of going to the insurance company doctor. If you are facing these issues, we can tell you what the doctor's track record is. Then we will help you decide what is best for your PTSD and your workers' comp case.
3. The insurance company will ask that their treating authorized physician refer you to a reputable mental health provider. This is the least likely thing to happen in your case because it may cost the insurance company more money. I know, why wouldn't the insurance company want to help you so you get better and they likely end up paying less money in the long run? However, this is not how profit-driven insurance companies think. Often, they rather save the money now even though they are ignoring the human cost and may pay more later on. Note: If the doctor they send you to makes a specific referral to another doctor, then they should be responsible for paying for that care and treatment. If they refuse, then the alternative medical care procedure may be used to force the insurance company to pay for the mental health medical care that you need. There are very specific requirements that you must follow in order to have a chance at winning in an alternative medical care hearing. Chapter 4 of our Iowa Workers' Compensation book covers this topic in more detail.
If you would like a copy of our new no cost Iowa Work Comp book which includes the Iowa Injured Workers Bill of Rights and reveals 7 costly mistakes and how you can avoid them just click here to request the book. There is no cost or risk and you can finally learn about Iowa workers comp laws in the comfort of your own home with no pressure. We offer our Iowa workers comp book at no cost because we have seen far too many hardworking Iowans who following a work injury were suffering both physically and mentally who were treated badly by insurance companies because they did not know their rights or responsibilities.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind if you think you may have PTSD or have been diagnosed with it:
1. PTSD is a mental health anxiety disorder involving the over-activation of the flight or fight response.
2. PTSD symptoms can develop quickly or slowly after a traumatic event in which your life was put in danger.
3. Some signs and symptoms include: anxiety, grief, anger, feeling lonely, sleep issues, feeling out of control, etc. People with PTSD may feel disconnected from the world and lose their meaning and purpose in life.
4. Many PTSD sufferers relive the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding people or places that bring back the memories of the trauma and/or constantly feeling on edge.
5. PTSD is not a result of moral failure or weakness in character but is a real condition caused by biological and physiological mechanisms.
6. Everyone is different some people who sustain the same trauma can have very different reactions from it including developing PTSD or not.
7. People with PTSD have a greater risk of alcohol abuse and other mental health conditions like depression.
8. You are not alone because an estimated 4% of men and 10% of women develop PTSD at some point in their lifetime which means approximately 8 million adults are dealing with PTSD in any given year.
9. The good news is that there are many ways to treat PTSD including individual and/or group psychotherapies, medications, etc.
If you or a loved one is having mental health issues following trauma the best thing you can do is to get help with a qualified mental health professional as soon as possible. While PTSD may get better on its own with time, at the very minimum you should get it checked out so it does not get worse.
Suffering from PTSD can be an isolating experience, but there are millions of other people dealing with similar problems and there are resources available to help you get your life back. If you do not have anyone else to turn to and are even considering hurting yourself, then please get help or at least call 800-273-8255 to speak with a trained person at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are not comfortable calling someone on the phone for more information go to https://www.mentalhelp.net/ptsd/hotline/.
Can My Employer Make Me Come to Work During the Coronavirus Pandemic? (Iowa 2020 Update)
The new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) created the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) which provided some temporary protections (they end December 31, 2020) to the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and the EPSLA (Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act) which provides compensation for time off work because of the Coronavirus for specific situations.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)
Who is eligible? If you have worked for an employer for at least the past 30 calendar days.
What conditions allow me to not go to work under the EFMLEA? If you need to care for your child under 18 years of age if their school or daycare has been closed because of the public health emergency (in this case the Coronavirus).
Which employers are required to comply? Unfortunately, as with many legislative bills it was not written very clearly and the DOL (Department of Labor) recently posted 80 pages of temporary regulations so it is not exactly clear which employers are required to comply with the EFMLEA. Generally, it appears that private employers with 500 or more employees based in the United States or its territories are not required to comply and have no obligations under the statute. Employers with fewer than 500 full-time and part-time employees are covered, but employers with fewer than 50 employees may or may not be required to comply with the longer EFMLEA provisions.
How much will I be paid? Generally, the first 2 weeks are unpaid, but you are allowed to use your other paid leave. After the first two weeks, you can be paid for up to another 10 weeks at two-thirds of your average rate of pay over the past 6 months subject to a cap of $200 per day.
What should I do? If you think that you are or may be eligible then you should provide in writing to your employer you name, dates of requested leave, the reason you will be gone, the name of your child/children that you need to care for, the name of the school, pre-school or place of care that has been closed and a statement that you have no other suitable person to care for your child/children.
What will happen to my job when I come back? If your employer has 25 or more employees then you should be returned to your previous employment, unless your employer shows that the position no longer exists due to economic conditions caused by the health emergency, and your employer shows they have made reasonable efforts to restore you to an equivalent position.
Also, please keep in mind that the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) normal rules still apply such that FMLA leave is still unpaid, limited to 12 weeks per company year, etc.
EPSLA (Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act)
All employees are covered however health care providers and emergency responders defined below are excluded.
Which occupations are excluded? If you are a health care provider or an emergency responder then your employer may exclude you from the EPSLA’s Paid Sick Leave requirements and/or the EFMLEA’s Expanded Family and Medical Leave requirements. The DOL regulations definitions of healthcare providers and emergency responders include not only physicians and nurses, but also employees at doctor’s offices, employees who manufacture medical products and lab workers.
What conditions allow me to not go to work and be paid under the EPSLA?
1. If you are subject to a quarantine or isolation order that is related to the Coronavirus/Covid-19
2. If you have been advised by a health care provider that you need to self-quarantine because of a health condition that you have. For example, asthma, COPD, diabetes, etc.
3. If you are caring for someone who is covered by the above (1) or (2).
4. If you are having Covid-19 symptoms and seeking medical care and diagnosis.
5. If you are caring for your child/children because their school, pre-school or daycare has been closed because of Covid-19.
6. If you are experiencing any other "substantially similar condition" to one of the above as defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
How many days are you allowed to miss under EPSLA? If you are a full-time employee, then you will receive 80 hours of paid leave. If you are part-time then you will be paid the average hours over a two-week period.
How much are you paid under the EPSLA? For the above reasons (1)-(3) you are paid your regular wage up to a maximum of $511 per day. If you miss work for reasons (4)-(6) then you are paid 2/3 of your regular rate of pay up to $200 per day.
Can my employer make me find a replacement worker under the EPSLA? The law prohibits your employer to require you to find another employee to cover for you while you are off work. Further, your employer may not discharge, discipline, or discriminate against you in any other manner for asserting your rights under the EPSLA.
Keep in mind that these are brand new laws and regulations interpreting these laws are coming out often such that the above may not be accurate. If you have applied for one or both of the above and been denied benefits, terminated, or discriminated against then you should seek the advice and opinions of a qualified employment law attorney.
Related ArticlesWhat If I Get Coronavirus (Covid 19) From My Job?
Do I Still Have A Car Accident Injury Case If I Wasn’t Wearing A Seatbelt?
The short answer is yes, you still have a case. However, Iowa law requires all front-seat occupants wear a seat belt and anyone under the age of 18 (who is not in a car seat) to wear a seat belt in both the front and back of a vehicle. Iowa has a system which is called comparative fault. In 2018, the Iowa legislature passed a new law (Iowa Code Section 321.445) increasing the percentage of fault you can be found from 5% to 25% for failing to wear a seat belt when required to do so by law.
Why is this important?
Because for every percentage of fault you are found by a judge or jury, your damages are reduced accordingly. For example, if you are the driver or front-seat passenger who is not wearing a seat belt during a car crash caused by someone else and your total damages are $100,000. If you are found to be 25% at fault, then you are only allowed to recover $75,000 because your damages were reduced by 25% (100,000 X 25% = 25,000).
Insurance companies will also argue that you can be found comparatively at fault for failing to wear a seat belt in the back seat even though it is not illegal. While there is no conclusive case on this issue, district courts have gone both ways.
Sometimes, the judge will require the defendants and their insurance company to submit medical evidence in court which usually consists of a doctor or other expert testifying about how your injuries would have been less severe if you were wearing a seat belt. There are several studies that these experts can cite to support their position. Also, if the jury knows that you were not wearing your seat belt they may be more critical of you and provide you less compensation overall in addition to finding you partially at fault. It is normal for jurors to think using what we call attribution bias. This means that jurors do not want to imagine that they could be injured like you were in a car crash, so they will try to find fault in what you did to cause your injuries. For example, I always wear my seat belt and because he/she did not wear a seat belt he/she was injured or my friend was in a terrible car accident caused by a drunk driver, but he was wearing his seat belt and not injured or my son was rear-ended in a car accident and thankfully he was not injured because he was wearing his seat belt. There are many other examples of this, but you can see how a juror may try to place blame on the injured party in order to avoid painful thoughts that they or a loved one could be injured in a car accident.
Good Reasons To Always Wear A Seatbelt
1. Statistics show that wearing a seat belt should prevent you from being ejected in a car crash which is among the leading causes of death;
2. Scientific data shows that overall injuries are less severe in a car crash when a person is wearing a seat belt;
3. Your damages may be reduced because of your fault for not wearing a seat belt;
4. If you are over 18 and riding in the front seat you will end up with a ticket and fine to pay.
There can be several extenuating circumstances that impact accident fault. It may require seeking legal counsel. A Des Moines personal injury attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair can handle these types of traffic cases and can help determine who is at fault in a car accident.
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.
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.
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.
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.