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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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 is 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.
What Qualifies as a Workers Comp Claim? Do I Qualify?
Keep in mind that every state has different laws, but here in Iowa there are several requirements to qualify as a workers comp claim including:
1. Prove That You Have An Iowa Workers Compensation Claim.
The first step is to prove that you have an Iowa Workers Compensation Claim. If you were hurt within the state of Iowa, then it is clear that you have an Iowa claim. However, if you work for an Iowa company and were injured in another state then you may still have a claim here in Iowa. There are very specific legal and factual requirements to prove that Iowa has jurisdiction over your claim. Keep in mind, that just because they are paying you Iowa benefits does not mean that you have an Iowa claim. There are things to consider such as where the "contract of hire" was made, did you "regularly work" in Iowa, does your employment contract contain a provision that Iowa has jurisdiction if you are hurt at work, etc.
We have many potential clients who contact us who were paid Iowa benefits but were injured out of the State of Iowa. Some of them we have had to tell that Iowa does not have jurisdiction and they need to promptly file their claim in another state. If you have questions about whether you truly have an Iowa claim or not, you should immediately contact our office as the time limits to file cases in other states can be one year or less.
2. Prove An Employer-Employee Relationship
If Iowa has jurisdiction over your claim, then you need to prove an employer-employee relationship. This means that you are not an independent contractor. There are several factors to determine if you are an employee or not including:
1. If taxes are being taken out of your wages, then chances are you are considered an employee;
2. If there is a contract between the parties for a certain piece or kind of work to be done at a fixed price. For example, if you are paid a flat amount of money to complete a certain job then that would be a factor to show you are an independent contractor.
3. The independent nature of the business. For example, if you are hired to work in a factory compared to go do a roofing project on a house will affect if you are an employee or not;
4. If the person you are hired by has the right to supervise the work that you do. An example would be if the person who hired you is directly how you are doing your job compared to just looking at the finished product;
5. Along the same lines is the right to control the progress of the work. If the person you are hired by is micromanaging the project, this would make it more likely that you are an employee;
6. An additional factor is who provides the equipment, tools, supplies, and materials. If you are the one providing these items that weight towards you being an independent contractor, but keep in mind that this is only one of the factors;
7. The amount of time in which you are doing the job. If this is the first time you have been hired to do the work and it is only a one time project then this would be evidence that you are an independent contractor;
8. Whether you are paid by the amount of time you work or by the job. If you are paid on an hourly basis this shows that you are more likely an employee;
9. If the work is a part of the regular business of the employer then you are more likely to be considered an employee.
3. Prove You Were Injured While Doing Your Job
If you have proven that you are an employee and Iowa has jurisdiction of your claim, then the next step is to prove that you were injured basically while doing your job. The legal requirement is arising out of and in the course of your employment. Basically, this means that you were either on the clock working or doing something benefiting your employer. Generally, this includes injuries for work done on, in, or about the premises which are occupied, used, or controlled by the employer. For example, a fall in the parking lot while a worker is going into work or leaving to go back to their car is considered to be work-related. However, if you are driving from your home to go to your normal work shift and are injured in a car crash then chances are that it would not be considered work-related.
4. Did Work Activities Cause Or Aggravate Condition
Once you are past these legal requirements, then the medical aspect of your case will be the focus. The question will be, did your work activities cause and/or materially aggravate your medical condition such that you now need medical care and treatment. These questions are for the doctors that the insurance company sends you to, your other medical providers and the doctors that you may see for an independent medical examination can answer. If you are able to prove that your injuries are work-related, then there are three different basic types of compensation available to you:
1. Medical care and treatment including mileage to and from your medical providers and the pharmacy at the direction of your employer and/or their insurance company;
2. Healing period benefits which are paid while you are either taken completely off work because of your injuries (TTD- temporary total disability) or do not make as much as you did before being injured because of your work restrictions (TPD- temporary partial disability).
3. Permanent benefits are paid if your injury is determined to be permanent in nature. The amount of, and duration that you will receive these benefits depends on many factors. These factors are discussed further in our Iowa Workers' Compensation book that we offer a no-cost or risk to you.If you have questions about any of the above, please feel free to 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 and even tell you if we think you need an attorney or not.
Do Workers Compensation Benefits Stop at 65?
In Iowa, work comp benefits do not automatically stop when you reach age 65. However, keep in mind that there are a few different types of benefits and they work differently. There are temporary benefits referred to as TTD (temporary total disability), permanent benefits called PPD (permanent partial disability) and medical benefits which include paying for the entire cost of the medical care you are provided at the insurance company's discretion, plus your mileage and time you miss from work that you are not paid for. Also, keep in mind that the receipt of Social Security benefits can have a big impact on benefits paid up until the time that you reach your full retirement age discussed more below.
TTD- These are paid to an injured worker regardless of age when after a work injury they are taken off work by the authorized treating physician or given work restrictions that the employer cannot accommodate. These are paid until the injured worker reaches MMI (maximum medical improvement) or otherwise known as you are as good as you are likely to get from the doctor's standpoint.
PPD- These benefits are paid based upon your impairment rating in scheduled member only cases or your industrial disability in other cases. You are paid a number of weeks of benefits which can extend past age 65. The number of weeks you will be paid depends upon the type of injury you sustained, your functional impairment rating under the AMA Guides and in some cases your age, education, loss of actual earnings, along with many other factors. One of the biggest factors in how much you will be paid is if you have a scheduled member injury (arm, hand, leg, foot, eye, etc.) or an unscheduled (also known as an industrial injury like a back, neck, hip, CRPS, certain injuries around the "shoulder" joint, etc.). We have other articles on our webpage and book that we offer at no cost which explains PPD compensation in much further detail.
Medical Benefits- If you were injured at work then technically you have lifetime medical benefits in addition to what they paid you for weekly benefits. This is assuming that you did not "settle" your case which another topic in itself. Also, often time insurance companies will end up denying medical care and treatment for things such as:
1. You no longer work for the employer;
2. They can blame arthritis for your ongoing problems instead of the work injury; and/or
3. They just don't want to spend any more money on your medical care.
Social Security Benefits- If you are receiving SSI (supplemental security income) then any compensation that you receive in wages or a workers' compensation check will reduce your benefits. Whereas, if you receive SSDI (Social Security Disability) there will be an offset evaluation done in order to determine what, if any, amount your monthly Social Security disability payment are reduced by. The SSA (Social Security Administration) only allows you to make up to 80% of your highest year earnings in the 5 years prior to your work injury. For example, if your highest year of wages is $40,000 you are only allowed to received up to $32,000 per year/$2,666.67 per month ($40,000 X 80% = $32,000). So if you are receiving $500 per week in work comp which is a monthly amount of $2,166.67 then the maximum you can receive each month in Social Security is $500 before the rest of your SSDI benefits are offset. Keep in mind that you are allowed deductions for attorney fees, litigation costs, but the offset will continue until you reach your full retirement age or your case is properly settled with the proper Social Security offset language used. It is very dangerous for an injured worker to try to settlement almost any case on their own and is downright not smart to try to settle a case without an attorney when they are receiving SSDI.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Workers Comp Claim in Iowa?
Keep in mind that there are really two-time deadlines. The first deadline is called notice and it is when you report your injury. The other deadline is called the statute of limitations and it is when you must have a petition on file with the Iowa workers' compensation agency.
Notice- Iowa Code Section 85.23 was changed effective July 1, 2017, and currently provides that you have 90 days to report your workers' comp. claim from when you "knew or should have known that the injury was work-related."
In the case of a traumatic injury, it is always the best policy to report your work injury as soon as it happens. Many employers have requirements in their employee handbook requiring 24-hour notice. This does not change the law that you have up to 90 days to report the injury, but the longer you wait to report it, the less likely that the insurance company will admit the claim and pay benefits. For example, if you are at work and while lifting something your back hurts, report it right away by telling your employer what you were doing at work and that you are injured. You should also ask for medical care and to fill out a work injury incident report. Not all employers have reports such as these, but it is always best to put your work injury in writing and keep a copy of what you submitted to your employer.
With injuries that occur over time, what are called cumulative trauma injuries notice is a little different. Often you do not have an exact time and date when the pain started. However, keep in mind that it is always better to report a specific work incident that caused pain. For example, if when you do your job your back hurts then you should report exactly what you are doing at work that makes your back hurt. If you tell your employer "I don't know" this can create problems later on. Also, you may be seeking medical care and treatment on your own before you now the condition is work-related. For example, sometimes your doctor will tell you "I think this is work-related". If they tell you this, then it is time to report your work injury because it is very likely that the 90-day time limit is counting down.
There are a couple of pointers to keep in mind when reporting work injuries:
1. In order to report a work injury, you need to notify your employer that you were doing a work-related activity and when you were injured. Just telling your employer "my back hurts" without telling them it is caused by your work may not be enough notice and your claim may be denied because of it.
2. If you hurt your back on Friday and want to see how things go over the weekend before reporting it, this is a bad idea. Employers are very suspicious of injuries reported after you have not been at work. The chances that your claim will be unjustly denied increase if you report it after a weekend, vacation, etc.
3. Always put something in writing about your work injury and keep a copy for your own records. Sometimes employers will claim we never received an injury report as somehow it get's "lost". Also, remember to write down in detail how your work caused you to be injured.
Statute of Limitations
Iowa Code Section 85.26 is the law dealing with the time limit you have to file a petition with the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner. The general rule is that you must file a petition with 2 years of your date of injury, not when you provided notice. Failing to properly and timely file a petition will result in the case being dismissed and you receive no compensation. This is true regardless if you are still treating with your doctors, regardless if you are unable to work, etc. The biggest exception to this rule is if you are paid indemnity workers' compensation benefits. These could be either TTD (temporary total disability), TPD (temporary partial disability), and/or PPD (permanent partial) benefits.
We recommend at the very least that you speak with a qualified workers comp attorney within 18 months of the date of your injury to determine if your case qualifies for the exemption. We have had to tell far too many clients that just because they provided medical care, your 2-year statute of limitations is not extended or you may have received disability benefits, but they were not workers' compensation benefits. We will evaluate and help you make this determination at no risk or cost to you.
If is it confirmed that you have been paid workers compensation benefits within 2 years of the date of injury, then your statute of limitations is extended to 3 years from the date of last payment. This does not mean that you should wait that long to file a petition because most injured workers heal from their work injuries within 2 years of their injury. At the present time, it takes around 1 year from the time you file a petition until when you have a hearing before a workers compensation judge. Then it will take an additional 3 to 12 months for the judge to provide his/her decision. That decision can be appealed to the judge's boss, the workers' compensation commissioner which adds an additional 18 to 24 months and sometimes there can even be further appeals.
My point is that the longer you wait to file a petition, the longer you will wait for either a settlement or a trial. We do not rush to file your petition like some attorneys do because we want to do what is best for you, not just your case. Sometimes when you are back to work making the same amount of money this may mean waiting several months or longer before filing a petition to see how things go. What you don't want to have happen is for your case to be rushed to settle and then after your settlement, you lose your job. We will help you through the process and give you the best legal advice for your specific situation. Our promise to you is that if you decide we are the right workers' compensation attorneys for you that we will treat you like family. We have 4 fulltime offices in Central Iowa, but have branches office and represent injured workers throughout the State of Iowa.
Who is at Fault in a Left Turn Car Accident?
Left turn car accidents can be some of the most serious car crashes that we see. Often the force of the impact is localized to the passenger side of the car where hopefully someone is not sitting. Other times, the force of the impact will send the turning vehicle skidding and sometimes flipping. There are many factors to determine who is a fault for a left turn car accident sometimes called Rules of the Road. The determination of fault is also referred to as determining who is liable for the collision or a liability determination.
The first thing would be what if any traffic controls were in the area. If you are waiting to turn left across traffic and have a green arrow, then it is most likely the other driver's fault. However, if you have a blinking yellow or red light when you turn, you may be found at fault. One of the most difficult fault determinations to make is when a driver is in the middle of the intersection getting ready to turn left when the light begins to change from green, to yellow and then to red. The other driver is approaching and goes through the light. The other driver may have ran the red light, but things happen quickly and if you pulled into the other driver's path then you may be at fault. In some areas in Iowa, we have traffic cameras to capture exactly what happened, but the vast majority of intersections do not have traffic cameras.
A more common left turn car accident is from a stop sign. A driver looks and thinks there is no traffic coming, but in fact, there is a vehicle approaching. Look before you leap is a term we have all heard before, but when it comes to making a left turn into traffic this is especially true. It is best to look in both directions twice to make sure no one is coming. It goes without saying, but talking on your cell phone or trying to send a text while making a left-hand turn is a bad idea. Driver distraction is the number one reason we have car accidents, to begin with. You don't want to place the safety of yourself or your passengers behind a call or text that could wait until you get home. No call or text with worth the costly price you and your family could pay if involved in a car crash.
Failing to Yield
When you are making a left hand turn across traffic, you have the duty to yield to oncoming traffic. If you pull out in front of a vehicle that then strikes you, you are likely to be found at fault. However, if the other vehicle was speeding then they may also be found at fault for the crash. Under Iowa law, you have the right to assume that other drivers are following the traffic laws around you. This means if the driver is going 100 mph in a 55 mph zone when you turn in front of his vehicle, then the speeding driver maybe 100% at fault for the collision.
If there are no traffic signals then the general rule is that you must yield to your right. Also, also discussed above there are rules to yield to oncoming traffic as well. So if a vehicle is coming from your right and you turn left in front of the vehicle then you may be at fault for the collision. As discussed above there can be other factors such as the speed of the other vehicle which will be considered in determining fault.
Because determining fault can be difficult sometimes, Iowa has what is called a comparative fault. Not surprisingly, this means that the fault of the parties is compared. In order to make any recovery, you have to prove that the other driver was 50% or more at fault. Whatever the percentage of fault that is assigned to you will reduce your recovery by that amount. For example, let's say you were turning left and it is disputed whether the other driver ran the red light or you turned in front of him just prior to impact. If a judge or jury found that you were 30% at fault and provided you with a verdict of $100,000 for your injuries, then you would only be allowed to collect $70,000 because you were 30% at fault.
Where to go from Here?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a left-turn car accident then just because the police may have found you or the other driver at fault does not mean that the police are always right. You should consider speaking with a qualified Iowa car accident attorney to determine if your case is worth investigating and pursuing. Our office handles these types of cases on a contingency fee basis which means there is no upfront cost and no risk to you. We are only paid if we are successful in making a recovery and then it is a percentage of the recovery depending upon if the case settles or if litigation is required. If we are not successful, then you owe us nothing, not even the costs or time we spend on the case. So there is no risk to you.
Maybe you are not ready to speak with an attorney yet which is just fine. Then you should at least request a copy of our Iowa Car Accident book entitled "The Legal Insider's Guide to Iowa Car Accidents" which exposes 10 myths about Car accident claims, 5 things to know before hiring an attorney and much, much more. We offer our book at no cost because during the past 20 plus years we have seen far too many Iowa make costly avoidable mistakes. Now you can read about Iowa car accident laws, determine if you even need an attorney or not and educate yourself all in the comfort of your own home with no pressure. Request your copy today at www.IowaCarCrash.com. If you would like immediate assistance or to schedule your no cost Iowa car accident review Call Now (641) 792-3595.
Why are Motorcycle Crashes on the Rise?
During the past 10 years, more motorcycle riders have been getting injured or killed on our roadways. Historically, August is one of the worst months for motorcycle riders. Yes, overall there are more motorcycle riders on the roads than there were 10 years ago as more women have purchased motorcycles. A sobering fact is that while motorcycles account for less than 1% of all vehicle miles in Iowa, they make up a much larger percentage of the crashes. A whopping 14% of the fatalities and 16% of severe injuries are sustained by motorcycle riders each year in Iowa.
Motorcyclists are more vulnerable on the roadways as there is very little protection for the rider. After a motorcycle accident, the injured rider needs good advice about how to deal with medical providers, the insurance companies, etc. It is a common misconception that if the other driver is at fault, their car insurance will pay for the medical bill and expenses of the injured rider.
How To Protect My Self And My Claim
1. Seek treatment immediately and tell them everything that hurts. If you are hurt, then you need to go immediately to the emergency room or your doctor. Failing to seek medical treatment can not only result in your injuries being more severe but will also be used against you in your claim. Also, make sure you tell your medical providers about all the areas that are injured including all pain and limitations you are having caused by the motorcycle accident.
2. Don’t rush to settle your claim. Often insurance companies will offer you a few thousand dollars to settle your case which may sound tempting. However, if you sign the release and agree to the settlement you are not only giving up your rights but may have to pay for your medical care and treatment out of your pocket or reimburse your health insurance company.
3. Don’t give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster or sign anything. Insurance adjusters are trained to ask you questions in such a way that later one can be used against you. Giving a recorded statement seldom helps your case and often can hurt it. Signing forms for an insurance company gives them access to information that has nothing to do with the accident and may result in them discovering information that they will use against you when it comes time to try to settle your case.
4. Documentation. Make sure to keep copies of work excuses, verification of time off work, lost pay, medical bills and records, police reports and also you should document in a journal each day how you are feeling.
5. Never exaggerate your injuries. Your medical records should provide the information about your injuries so long as you tell your providers everything that hurts. Please don't try to make your medical condition sound worse than it is. Exaggerating your injuries can severely damage the value of your case.
6. Talk to an experienced injury attorney before you consider settling your case. Insurance adjuster settles claims for a living. You need a professional on your side to defend your rights and to protect you from getting ripped off by an insurance company. Before you even consider a settlement, you should consult with a qualified injury attorney to find out what your rights are, other potential sources of recovery, issues dealing with medical bills and subrogation, etc.
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.