If your work injuries are permanent, then you should receive a permanent impairment rating based upon the AMA Guides and be paid what some call a settlement. However, being paid for your impairment rating for what is called PPD (permanent partial disability) does not settle your case and you may be entitled to additional compensation.
How much additional compensation am I owed?
This depends on several factors that we will discuss in this article. If you were injured after July 1, 2017, then unfortunately your benefits will likely be significantly less than if you were injured before July 1, 2017. In 2017, Governor Branstad and the Republican party pushed through legislation in less than one week which made more than 20 changes to our workers’ compensation laws all of which were bad for injured workers. Below are some scenarios that apply to different situations.
Same or Higher Earnings with Same Employer
Under the new laws, one of the biggest factors in determining compensation is if work with the same employer making the same or more money. Even if you have permanent work injuries that have significantly reduced your earning capacity, you may still be limited to only the impairment rating if you are back to work making the same or more money even if it is a different job with the same employer.
Keep in mind a few things:
1. Even if you are making the same or more money with the same employer where you were injured, you may be able to obtain a higher impairment rating by using your 85.39 right to an independent medical examination. However, you don’t want to just use this right to a 2nd opinion with any doctor and you do not want to get a name of a doctor from the insurance company for your second opinion. If you are trying to handle your workers' compensation claim on your own keep in mind that often even if you obtain a higher impairment rating, the insurance company will only agree to pay you a higher amount if you agree to close your file by settling your case. This may or may not be a bad idea, but you should not agree to any settlement without first talking to a qualified Iowa workers' compensation attorney.
2. If you are satisfied with the impairment rating that you were provided, you still need to consider protecting yourself in the future should your employer decide to terminate you due to your work restrictions or for some other reason. Iowa law provides that if you have been paid a permanent impairment rating, you only have 3 years from the date of the check to bring a claim for additional benefits. This is what is known as a statute of limitations. Failing to timely file your case will likely result in you not only receiving no additional money, but also it is likely that the insurance company will refuse to provide you additional medical care for your work injury. Insurance companies know that if there is no financial incentive to obtain additional compensation, many injured workers will choose to use their health insurance instead of fighting with the insurance company about it. No, this is not right and that is why you should consider protecting yourself. There may be a small silver lining in the new laws. Keep in mind that this issue has not yet been decided by the courts, but it appears that under the new statute there may be an unlimited statute of limitations if either an arbitration decision is entered or a proper agreement for settlement is done. Yes, you could try to do this on your own, but there are risks involved because injured workers often make costly avoidable mistakes when dealing with the insurance company. Most qualified workers’ compensation attorneys handle cases on a contingency fee and do not take any portion of the impairment rating that is voluntarily paid by the insurance company. So really, you have nothing to lose in contacting an attorney to find out if it makes sense to get legal help or not.
Lower Earnings with Same Employer
If you are making less money after your work injury because you were perhaps moved to a different job because of your restrictions or now are limited in the number of hours that you work, then there may be additional compensation that you are owed. This will depend upon the type of injury you sustained. If you sustained what is called an industrial injury (back, neck, brain, CRPS- complex regional pain syndrome, both shoulders, shoulder plus another extremity, 3 extremities, physical then mental problems, etc.) then you are likely owed additional compensation for your loss of earnings. If you sustained a scheduled member injury (hand, arm, foot, leg, eye and/or hearing loss) then your compensation may be limited to the permanent impairment rating by either the company doctor or the second opinion doctor. However, you may also be entitled to compensation under the Iowa Second Injury Fund which provides additional compensation to workers who previously sustained an injury to a different scheduled member. Keep in mind that the first injury does not have to be work-related and could be something you were born with like a deformed limb. Before you consider settling your case and giving up all of your rights to compensation it makes sense to at least call an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to discuss this. We offer a no-cost confidential work injury evaluation where we will take the time to listen to what happened to you, answer your questions, and give you our advice about what the best thing is to do in your case.
Working for a Different Employer
If you were terminated because your employer would not or could not accommodate your work injury restrictions, then you may be owed significant additional benefits. Once again, the first thing to consider is the type of injuries you have sustained. Did you sustain industrial (body as a whole injury), just a scheduled member injury, or have you had a prior scheduled member injury qualifying you for benefits under the Iowa Second Injury Fund? There are no clear-cut ways to know for sure if your case is limited to a scheduled member thereby limiting your compensation until you have provided the facts to a workers' compensation attorney with years of experience trying to obtain compensation for injured workers. This is one of the many reasons why we offer you a no-cost, no-risk and confidential consultation about your work injuries.
Get Your No Cost Confidential Consultation Now- To speak with our Iowa workers’ compensation team just call 641-792-3595 or use our LiveChat feature by clicking here 24 hours a day/7 days per week. If one of our attorneys is not available, then you can schedule an appointment right away, so you have a set time and date to ask questions.
If you prefer to not speak to an attorney yet but would like to learn more about Iowa’s workers' compensation system, then grab your copy of our Iowa Work Injury Book. It is available to you at no cost because we want you to avoid common costly mistakes that we have seen workers make over the years.