Workers who do lots of heavy lifting often suffer back problems and may require epidural injections as part of their treatment. These injections should be covered by workers’ compensation, and if there are problems getting the injections covered or with other aspects of a worker's claim, he or she can file an appeal with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner (IWCC) to rectify the situation.
What are epidural injections?
The epidural space is a fat-filled space located between the dura mater that surrounds the spinal cord and the wall of the vertebra. During an epidural injection a needle is inserted into this space and corticosteroids are injected into the area to reduce swelling in the spine and hopefully alleviate some of the pain patients feel.
Doctors use epidural injections to treat a variety of spine-related injuries and conditions including:
- disc herniations;
- spinal stenosis; and
Typically a patient receives the injection once every couple of weeks for several weeks, though patients will discuss the schedule with their doctors.
Possible complications associated with the treatment, which patients should thoroughly discuss with their doctors, include:
- nerve damage; and
- dural punctures.
Workers’ Compensation Disputes Involving Epidural Injections
Workers’ compensation insurance generally pays workers’ medical expenses related to their injuries, as well as disability benefits depending on the employee’s ability to work and any permanent impairment that results, as well as other factors. These benefits are mandatory if the employee suffered the injury in the course of employment. Injuries that arise from accidents as well as repetitive and cumulative trauma are covered.
Doctors may heavily influence the length and amount of benefits that workers receive based on their assessment of the claimant's injuries. Employers in Iowa have the right to choose the medical provider for the injury.
Sometimes a doctor outright denies that an employee has an injury or feels pains because he or she may be biased in favor of the employer. In these and other circumstances, a worker can file an appeal for alternative medical treatment with the IWCC.
If an employee's condition isn’t expected to improve despite continued treatment, he or she may reach a point where the underlying condition is a permanent disability. Disabilities related to the back are classified as industrial disabilities under workers’ compensation.
The attributes that will influence the amount of weeks that employees receive their permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits include:
- the employee's injury and impairment;
- education; and
- work experience; and other factors.
The rating is measured between 0 and 100 percent and applied to the maximum 500 weeks. Often industrial disability leads to disputes if the employee believes the rating is too low.
How do I handle a dispute with my insurance company?
In cases of disagreements in medical treatment or assessments, it can be difficult to resolve the dispute without competent legal representation. Employees should find an attorney familiar with the workers’ compensation system to protect their rights. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, we work to protect Des Moines workers’ rights no matter how complicated the case gets. Contact us at 888-435-9886 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.