For workers across the state, Iowa’s workers’ compensation system can be an invaluable way to pay for medical expenses and recover disability benefits to provide for themselves and their families after a work-related injury. Iowa law provides many protections for injured employees; however, there are situations where workers’ comp insurance companies take advantage of employees who were hurt on the job or do not provide them their rightful benefits. Workers can hire a work injury lawyer to protect their rights in these situations.
What is Workers’ Compensation and How Does it Work?
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides weekly disability benefit payments, full coverage of medical expenses, and select vocational, rehabilitative and other benefits to injured workers. Iowa state law requires that most companies carry workman’s compensation insurance. All injuries at work are covered by this insurance, and there is no consideration of who was at fault for the accident or injury.
The worker must notify the employer of the injury within 90 days of the accident or of becoming aware that the injury is work-related. After becoming aware of an injury, an employer submits a claim to their insurance company and a First Report of Injury document to Iowa's Division of Workers’ Compensation.
Next, the employer's insurance company may begin to pay benefits, but sometimes insurance companies deny or do not pay in full on a claim. In the event of a dispute, an employee may require an attorney’s assistance. An employee can first contact the Division of Workers’ Compensation if they disagree with the insurance company. If this does not resolve the dispute, the worker can appeal to the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner for an arbitration hearing to resolve the issue. If that’s not successful, the worker can take the case to court.
Tips To Find An Injury Lawyer
1. First and foremost you want to make sure the attorney practices Iowa workers' compensation law. If you hire an attorney from another state, then that attorney will have to hire an attorney in Iowa to pursue the case before the Iowa workers compensation agency. I know this may seem pretty basic, but keep in mind that attorneys from other states advertise in Iowa looking to make a referral fee and not actually represent you. Look to see where their physical offices are located and make sure that are an Iowa based law firm, not just attorneys using office share space in Iowa.
2. Next, you should look to see what kind of experience the attorney has with helping injured workers. The information you are looking for is how long have they practiced law, how many injured workers have they helped, have they written a book about Iowa work comp laws, do they offer free information to injured workers and what do their past clients have to say. If the attorney does not have these things then you may want to keep looking. Experience handling cases is important as you do not want someone who just occasionally handles a workers' compensation claim representing you because the laws change often and if the attorney is not current on things then a costly mistake could be made. A mistake that could end up costing you thousands of dollars.
3. What the attorneys past clients have to say is very important. Did the attorney return phone calls timely? Was the attorney helpful throughout the case? Did the attorney explain the process? Some of the best workers compensation attorneys in Iowa have client testimonials listed on their webpage in written format and also in videos done by their past clients. Also, you can go online to attorney review site www.Avvo.com and look up the attorney to see what past clients say about their services. Before you decide on which attorney to hire, look to see what his past clients have said. Also, if the attorney tells you that "everything is confidential" then that should raise a red flag because obviously attorneys are allowed to publish client testimonials with client permission.
4. Going hand and hand with experience is results. You will want to look for what results they have obtained for their clients. Results matter and if the attorney cannot provide you with a list of at least some results then this should raise a red flag. Perhaps the attorney has not handled very many cases or perhaps they have not obtained very good results for their clients. While each case is different and the prior results do not mean that you will receive the same result, you at least want to make sure the attorney has successfully handled Iowa workers' compensation cases.
How are disability benefits calculated?
The type of disability benefits you receive depends on if you are totally disabled (you cannot work) or partially disabled (you can work but are impaired) and whether the impairment is temporary or permanent. Temporary total (TTD), permanent total (PTD) and permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits are calculated as 80 percent of your average weekly spendable earnings from the previous 13 weeks. Temporary partial disability (PTD) benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your previous wages and current wages in a temporary but lower-paying position.
You can receive TTD, PTD and TPD until you return to your previous employment at your previous wages. PPD is available for a certain number of weeks, which is dependent on the body part that’s impaired and the rating of impairment issued by the treating physician. If you disagree with the impairment rating, you can request a second opinion from another doctor, but Iowa workers in disputes about impairment ratings may need help from a work injury lawyer.
What should I do if I think I want to file an arbitration claim against my company's insurance provider?
Contact the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation first to see if it can help resolve the dispute. This is the state agency that regulates and enforces the workers’ compensation laws. You should also be clear and descriptive with your doctor, so the doctor fully understands your injury. Good communication is necessary to determine a fair impairment rating.
If this doesn’t work and you want to dispute your benefits, impairment rating, or whether your injury is work-related, you may need to hire a work injury attorney to help you. The lawyers at Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help you work towards a fair outcome in your case. If you’re in the Iowa, contact a work injury lawyer by calling (888) 435-9886 or contacting us online to set up a consultation.