Sometimes it may not initially seem clear to you if you have sustained a work-related injury. Not all injuries are traumatic injuries that happen at a certain date and time, such as injuring your legs during a work accident. There are various types and causes of work injuries.

Cumulative trauma injuries

You may have started having symptoms, pain, and other problems over a period of weeks or months while working. Iowa recognizes what is called a cumulative work injury which is an injury that occurs over a period of time.

Despite what some employers may tell you, your injury does not have to be traumatic, which happens at a set date and time, to be able to get compensation. While it may be easier to prove that you were injured if there was a traumatic injury, do not just give up if your injury happened over time.

Aggravation of pre-existing condition

Maybe you have had back pain on and off over the years, but you lift something at work and your back pain changes (perhaps you start having leg pain) or the pain gets worse. Iowa workers’ compensation laws provide that if you have a prior medical condition that is substantially aggravated and made worse because of a work injury then you are to be compensated for this aggravation of a pre-existing condition.

While both scenarios sound like they benefit injured workers, in practice insurance companies will do everything and anything that they can (including hiring doctors who always say the problems are not work-related) to deny your claim to keep their money.

They will also sometimes hire doctors who have testified under oath that there is no such thing as a cumulative injury. I know that it may be hard to believe that there are doctors who are bought and paid for by insurance companies, but there are plenty in Iowa.


Yes, this process can be difficult so here are some things to keep in mind when you are wondering whether your condition is work-related or not.

1. If you are at work doing a work task that causes you significant pain, then you should immediately report the injury to your employer specifically describing what you were doing when your pain started.

We recommend that you report your work injury in writing because often supervisors will conveniently not remember you telling them about your work injury. If your employer has a form to report injuries, complete that form. If they do not have a form, then you should write out in detail how you were injured, and you may also want an Iowa workers’ comp attorney to look at what you have written before giving it to your employer. Failing to timely report a work injury can cause the value of your claim to be reduced and sometimes denied completely.

2. If you go see a doctor or other medical providers on your own, make sure that you describe to your doctor exactly how your work injury was caused and/or aggravated your medical condition. Failing to tell your medical providers that your medical condition is work-related can cause a lot of problems with your case and often will result in your case being denied.

Failing to tell your doctors about how your work has or may have caused your injuries is so damaging that many Iowa workers’ compensation attorneys decline to represent injured workers unless there is documentation of the work injury in their medical records.

3. After you tell your doctors in detail about how you believe your job has caused your current problems, you can then ask your doctor if they think that the condition is a work-related injury. If your doctor states they think this a work-related condition and you have not yet reported the work injury then you should promptly report your work injury in writing and state that your doctor recently told you that they thought that your condition is work-related.

4. If your employer or their insurance company wants to send you for an IME (independent medical examination) also known as an 85.39 examination you may think, “I know that this doctor is going to say my medical condition is not work-related so I won’t go to the appointment.” Unfortunately, in 2017 the Iowa Legislature led by then Governor Branstad passed a law stating that if your employer or their insurance company sends you for an 85.39 examination and you refuse, then any benefits that they may owe you during this period of refusal are forfeited until you attend the appointment.

If you find yourself in this situation, then you should contact a qualified Iowa workers’ compensation attorney to discuss the facts of your specific case and how Iowa law applies to you.

We offer confidential work comp. injury evaluations and consultations at no cost or risk to you. Just call our office at (641) 792-3595 to speak with one of our work comp. attorneys today. 

5. Once you have been evaluated for your work injury you should request medical care and treatment from your employer and/or their workers’ compensation insurance company.

Under Iowa law, if you want them to pay for your medical care and pay for missing work, then you will need to see their medical providers. There is a limited exception to this rule that is called alternative medical care which is discussed in detail in our Iowa Workers’ Compensation Guide that we offer at no cost or risk to injured workers.

6. If your claim has been denied, then you will be on your own for medical care and treatment, but you are able to pick your medical providers. Also, as long as you have health insurance, your health insurance is required to pay for your medical treatment when workers’ compensation has denied your claim, but you will need to provide a copy of the written denial letter.

7. If your claim has been denied and your doctor takes you off work, then you should look at short-term disability insurance policies that you have purchased or that your employer provides to you as part of your benefits. Some employers call it Accident and Sickness while others call it short-term disability, but regardless, you should contact your employer about these possible benefits.

Want More Info

Would you like additional information including the Iowa Injured Workers’ Bill of Rights? Request your copy of our book Iowa Workers’ Compensation- An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries. Our book includes how you can avoid 7 Deadly Mistakes if You are Hurt at Work. We offer our book at no cost or risk to you because we have seen far too many hard-working Iowans who have been taken advantage of by insurance companies who use their bag of tricks to delay and deny valid claims. 


There are many more things that you should know if you have been hurt at work and are considering leaving your job. If you have specific questions about your work injury matter feel free to call our office to speak with our workers’ compensation team at 641-792-3595 or use our Live Chat feature by clicking here 24 hours a day/7 days per week. Your information will remain confidential and there is no cost or obligation.

If you do not yet want to speak with an attorney but would like more information about your rights and responsibilities, then request a copy of our Iowa Work Injury Comprehensive Guide which includes the Iowa Injured Workers Bill of Rights and much more. The book is available at no cost because we have seen way too many hard-working Iowans make costly avoidable mistakes.


Read More

What is a Cumulative Work Injury in Iowa?

Will this injury be covered even though it is pre-existing?

Can you fight a workers’ compensation claim denial in Iowa?

Corey Walker
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With over 25 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.